State is 13th in jobs growth

Rise from 23rd spot nationally in January called sustainable

July 15, 1999|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

Maryland ranked 13th in the nation in statewide job growth at the end of the second quarter, despite languishing in the 23rd spot in January, according to a state report released yesterday. State leaders believe the job growth can continue, thanks to robustness in such sectors as business services, finance and real estate and education.

"The trend, I think, suggests to me that it's sustainable growth," said Patrick Arnold, director of labor market analysis and information for Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. "A few years ago in Maryland, people were questioning our job growth, and comparing it to that of Virginia and Delaware. Today, Maryland is just steadily going up in employment, at 2 to 2.5 percent a year. It was really a pleasant surprise to me to see the rankings."

Virginia -- Maryland's nemesis in economic-development circles -- fell from 13th in the rankings to the low 20s, Arnold said.

For Maryland's continued economic health, "sustainable" job growth may be the key. As of the second quarter's close, Maryland had added nonfarm jobs at a 2.3 percent annual rate, according to the report. Although that was only slightly better than the state's 2.1 to 2.2 percent job-growth rate in January and only a bit better than the national job-growth average of 2.2 percent, Maryland's economy is displaying solid, consistent growth that makes a sudden implosion much less likely, economists say.

"While a lot of factors imply that [Maryland] growth will not be sustainable beyond the middle of 2000 in the next three to four quarters Maryland should see continued strong economic growth," said Anirban Basu, director of applied economics for Towson University's Regional Economic Studies Institute.

The report said Maryland added 53,000 jobs from the end of the second quarter of last year to the close of this year's second quarter. Preliminary figures show that about 2.399 million people were working in Maryland as of June 30.

More than half of the jobs were created in the service sector, with some of the biggest gainers being in the business, health, engineering/management and educational services areas.

Finance, insurance and real estate, traditional Maryland strongholds, added about 3,600 jobs, with the bustle around home buying and refinancing helping drive that part of the economy. Consumers' thirst for stocks, bonds and mutual funds drove that sector, too, Arnold said.

Another important job-growth sector was government, which added 10,000 positions. Local government accounted for about 80 percent of those jobs. The upturn in local government employment was attributed largely to education and a teacher-hiring surge.

The fastest-growing parts of the market -- though smaller in size -- were transportation, communications and utilities. Advances in trucking and Maryland's central location, which makes it prime real estate for regional distribution centers, helped fuel growth here.

Towson's Basu said it's important to note that not all of the growth is concentrated in Maryland's suburban regions; Baltimore and the Eastern Shore are seeing good growth, too, he said. That trend toward across-the-board growth is expected to continue as the state flourishes over the next several economic quarters.

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