Md. gained 5,300 jobs in '02 while nation lost 1.1 million

Financial-services sector was among few hiring

March 26, 2003|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Despite the lingering malaise of the nation's economy, Maryland added jobs last year instead of losing them, according to newly revised numbers from the federal government.

Boosted by growth in mortgage lending, financial services and the federal government, the state added 5,300 jobs, for a total of 2.47 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The federal agency reported in December that Maryland was on a pace to lose about 10,000 jobs last year.

"It's a huge turnaround," said Pradeep Ganguly, chief economist in Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development.

He said the gain is small compared with historical standards but significant in light of today's economy.

"We added jobs where the nation lost ... 1.1 million jobs," Ganguly said. "We have always been saying that Maryland's economy is a lot more resilient than people give us credit for."

Maryland's job growth rate was 0.2 percent for the year, making it the seventh-fastest-growing state in the nation, according to the federal government figures.

The top three states for job growth were Alaska, up 2.2 percent; New Mexico, up 1.2 percent; and Montana, up 1 percent. The District of Columbia's job growth rate was 1.5 percent.

State officials said the revised numbers show that Maryland is on track for recovery, but Scott Hoyt, director of consumer economics at Economy.com in West Chester, Pa., was not impressed.

"For the state as a whole it is definitely not a big deal," Hoyt said. "It looks quite small."

Hoyt said the revised numbers show a slowing of job growth in November and December after fairly steady growth much of the year.

"To some degree, your trajectory is almost less encouraging than you had before," Hoyt said. "I must admit, this isn't a revision that would get me all excited."

Ganguly said Maryland jobs are being created by a handful of sectors, including financial services companies such as banks and mortgage lenders. Professional services, such as architectural engineering consulting companies, and the federal government also have hired workers.

Many of the federal government jobs are related to homeland security, Ganguly said.

He said Maryland slipped into recession in the fourth quarter of 2001 and emerged about July. The state was hurt less than the rest of the nation by the recession.

Maryland's unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in January, compared with the national rate of 6.5 percent.

Ganguly said he expects jobs in Maryland to grow a little less than 1 percent this year.

"I am sure we will take modest job growth for Maryland given the state of the national economy," Ganguly said.

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