Maryland jobs picture is bright

3.7% unemployment is close to the low for the decade

State economy

May 08, 1999|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

Maryland's unemployment rate slipped to 3.7 percent in March and remained near its lowest point of the decade, as the state's economy continued to add jobs and boost incomes, new government statistics showed yesterday.

The March seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was slightly lower than February's 3.8 percent but higher than January's 3.6 percent, which was the best monthly unemployment rate since August 1989, according to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

"This is the strongest Maryland has looked this decade," said Anirban Basu, an economist who follows the state for RESI, an economics and consulting institute at Towson University. "The economy essentially began to pick up steam in the second quarter of 1996 and has been picking up momentum ever since."

Maryland continued below the national unemployment rate, which was 4.2 percent in March and edged up to 4.3 percent in April, the government said yesterday. State unemployment statistics arrive a month later than national ones.

In the Baltimore area, the nonseasonally-adjusted March unemployment rate fell to 4 percent from 5.3 percent in March 1998. When analyzing statistics that have not been adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, economists generally compare them with year-earlier figures rather than data from the previous month.

Baltimore City's unemployment rate fell to 6.8 percent from 8.8 percent in March 1998. Howard County had the lowest rate in the state during March -- 1.8 percent.

Maryland added 57,000 state-based jobs between the first quarter of 1998 and the first quarter of 1999. That is growth of 2.5 percent.

Basu expects job growth of only 2.1 percent to 2.3 percent this year -- but not because demand for workers is slowing.

"It's just that there's no one left to employ, in many parts of the state, at least," he said.

Pub Date: 5/08/99

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