Maryland's unemployment rate remained steady in January as the state continued to outperform the nation, and a local economist predicted that the state could add 50,000 jobs this year.
The state jobless rate was 4.1 percent, the same as in December and down from 4.3 percent a year earlier, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The January figure was more than a point below the 5.2 percent national rate for the same month.
"Maryland's economy should remain fairly strong, with job growth of 1 1/2 to 2 percent this year," said Richard Clinch, director of economic research for the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore. "That would [translate to] 50,000 new jobs for 2005."
Clinch said his job-growth forecast was part of a presentation that he made to the Maryland Economic Development Commission last month. Nothing in yesterday's report would prompt him to reconsider or alter that forecast, Clinch said.
In Maryland, the number of nonfarm jobs declined in January by a preliminary estimate of 1,300, "essentially a wash," according to Clinch. More significant, the 2.54 million Maryland jobs for January exceeded the number in January last year by more than 31,000, Clinch said.
The biggest job gains were in two areas, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services, both traditionally important sectors in Maryland.
In the professional and business services sector, employment grew by 9,100 jobs to a seasonally adjusted 378,000 in January. The leisure and hospitality sector jumped 10,200 jobs to a seasonally adjusted 232,200, according to the BLS report.
The job gains in leisure and hospitality - which includes restaurants and hotels - are particularly heartening because that part of the economy is driven by discretionary spending, Clinch said.