Md. job growth was minus at high end

The Economy

April 25, 1999|By Jay Hancock

MARYLAND is a rich state in a rich country, its $46,685 median household income third only to New Jersey and Alaska.

But as in many other things economic, Maryland's wealth and income hasn't kept up with the growth of its neighbors.

"The state has been losing the battle for high-wage jobs," said Richard Delaney, president of the Delaney Policy Group, a Washington economics research firm. "Over the 1990s, in Maryland the job growth has been pretty significant in low-wage jobs."

In one of the more detailed and original analyses of recent state employment growth, Delaney's firm found that Maryland actually had 0.3 percent fewer high wage jobs at the end of 1997 than it did in 1990.

That was fifth worst in the country. Nationally, high-wage jobs grew 9.8 percent during the same period. In Virginia, high-wage jobs grew by 9.3 percent. (High-wage jobs are those in the top third of the pay scale.)

This is original research.

Mostly, economists and politicians simply assume a job is a job and that more jobs are better than fewer. Sometimes they look at kinds of employers and try to draw conclusions about what they pay. Lawyers make lots of money, so new legal jobs must be good, goes the thinking -- even though they may be secretarial slots.

But Delaney has sliced the data a few microns thinner, and the results yield a discouraging picture, perhaps even more discouraging than that previously seen.

Melding three sets of government data usually viewed separately, Delaney teased out new information on the good and bad jobs within Maryland's growth industries.

The conclusion: "If Maryland had grown at Virginia's rate in the 1990s, it would have had 75,000 more high-wage jobs" at the end of 1997 than it did, Delaney said.

For a little perspective, consider that Maryland added only 96,000 jobs between 1990 and 1997, according to the Labor Department. That's all jobs -- shopkeepers to shortstops.

Reports of Maryland's job race with Virginia often focus on high-technology. Northern Virginia has become a computer and Internet boom town, and Maryland's failure to keep up is a well-picked scab.

But in the high-wage category, high-technology hasn't been the worst area of under performance, according to Delaney.

"We tend to think about this competition as being on the technical side, but it was really in the professional and executive categories that we found the biggest difference."

Chief executives. Doctors. Corporate vice presidents. Lawyers. Those are the occupations in which Maryland's high-wage growth gap is biggest.

Maryland did much better in low-wage job growth (8.9 percent) and medium-wage job growth (5.2 percent), but even in those categories it trailed Virginia. Virginia grew low-wage jobs by 16.2 percent from 1990 to 1997; medium-wage jobs, by 11.1 percent.

Other statistics corroborate Delaney's findings. While Maryland's big proportion of two-earner families keeps household incomes high compared with other states, the state's household income growth ranks only 43rd nationally from 1987 to 1997, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Maryland can blame much of its bad showing on the last recession. The early 1990s were a miserable time in the state, as defense spending plunged, hometown banks were absorbed and factories shut down. But even if you start tracking job growth in 1992 instead of 1990, it doesn't look great.

In Pennsylvania, 40 percent of the job-growth between 1992 and 1997 was high-wage. In Delaware, it was 39 percent; in Virginia, 38 percent, according to Delaney. In Maryland: only 32 percent.

Not enough 1998 data is available for Delaney's detailed analysis, but the early results don't look good. Most of Maryland's 45,000 jobs added last year came in typically low-wage industries such as personal services, restaurants and bars and state and local government.

"Our guess is that once we do the 1998 analysis, it's going to show a less-than-rosy picture on the high-wage growth," Delaney said.

Maryland's economy clearly is performing better now than it has in years, as the state's total job-growth rate has returned to that of the nation. But Delaney's study shows that the jobs coming to Maryland haven't been the cream of the crop.

Pub Date: 4/25/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.