Rosier picture of job growth Maryland ranks 16th in U.S., up from 38th, Commerce Dept. says


October 09, 1998|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

The picture painted yesterday of Maryland's job growth is much rosier than earlier snapshots and shows the state biting at the heels of Virginia, its closest economic competitor.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis, the number of jobs in Maryland grew 2.567 percent between 1996 and 1997 -- ranking the state 16th in the nation, up from 38th. Virginia, with a 2.574 percent increase, was 15th, up from 24th. The national growth average was 2.45 percent.

The BEA's numbers show Maryland in a stronger position than earlier numbers from the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, economists said, because the BEA takes a wider sampling and includes farming and the self-employed.

Revised BLS numbers show a 2 percent increase in job creation between 1996 and 1997, making Maryland 26th.

"Maryland appears to have worked through the consolidation in financial services and defense manufacturers and developed new industries of growth such as information technology and biotechnology," said Anirban Basu, senior economist at the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University. "That does not mean that Maryland would not be exposed to a national economic downturn next year -- a downturn which we foresee."

While all industries saw growth, the largest increases were in construction at 4.526 percent; services, such as hotels and auto repair, at 3.915 percent; and agricultural services at 3.276 percent. Retail trade was at 1.592 percent, and government jobs saw the smallest increase at 0.52 percent.

"I don't know if I want to tell anyone to jump for joy," said Mark Vitner, an economist at First Union Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., who also said BEA numbers are more accurate. "There's still a huge disparity between job growth in Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland. There's still a lot of work to do to be a business-friendly place."

Nevada was ranked first in job growth for the fifth consecutive year, while Hawaii came in 50th for the third year in a row. For the fourth consecutive year, the District of Columbia was ranked last.

Fred Shahrokh, a senior economist at the state Department of Business and Economic Development, said the numbers confirmed what his agency knew.

"It shows our economy is extremely strong, and we've been saying that all along. Home sales are just skyrocketing, unemployment claims are going down, personal income growth is significant," he said.

Pub Date: 10/09/98

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