State gains 6,200 jobs

Sept. jobless rate dips

Maryland payrolls rise 54,200, or 2.1%, in year

October 22, 2005|By JAMIE SMITH HOPKINS | JAMIE SMITH HOPKINS,SUN REPORTER

Maryland employers and would-be employees had a particularly good month in September - 6,200 new jobs helped lower the unemployment rate to 4.1 percent, the Labor Department said yesterday.

The state, which had a jobless rate of 4.4 percent in August, recorded one of the largest improvements in the nation last month. It also had one of the country's fastest rates of job growth over the month.

That growth wasn't enough to make up for an apparently lousy August. Labor Department numbers show that state employers slashed 7,100 jobs that month - not as bad as the federal agency originally thought, but still puzzling to local economists and officials, who saw no sign of major cuts.

"I think it was a statistical anomaly," said John Hopkins, associate director for applied economics at RESI, Towson University's research and consulting arm.

He noted that the numbers are adjusted to take seasonal variations into account, and that sometimes produces unexplainable swings.

But September was more in line with his expectations. Maryland's pool of unemployed people shrunk by 8,200 last month, to 121,600, the government said.

Over the past 12 months, employers around the state have added 54,200 jobs - a 2.1 percent growth rate that significantly outpaces the nation's. U.S. employment ticked up by 1.6 percent over the year.

"It's amazing how much Maryland has broken away from the pack in the last few years," said Richard P. Clinch, director of economic research at the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute.

"We all wish the national recovery was stronger; that would only buoy Maryland further," Clinch said.

Professional and business services - which lost 2,300 jobs in August, according to the revised Labor Department numbers - gained 600 last month. It is generally one of the state's most reliable sectors: Over the last year, those employers added 15,800 jobs.

The other large gainers by sector were leisure and hospitality, which added 10,100 jobs over the year; education and health services, which added 8,700 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities, up by 8,600 jobs; and government, up by 5,000 jobs.

Manufacturing, which is struggling nationwide, shed 4,300 jobs in the state over the past year.

Maryland's relatively rosy economy offers hope for Baltimore, which typically has the worst jobless rate in the state - an average of 7.4 percent this year.

Hundreds of job seekers from the city lined up outside the 5th Regiment Armory on the west side this week to get to a job fair inside, organized by the state Department of Human Resources, where employers ranging from Southwest Airlines to the FBI were ready to hire.

An hour after the event began, Baltimore-based Watkins Security Agency Inc. had passed out all its 200 job applications and was scrambling to get extra copies. Lt. Joseph Carpintieri, a Watkins field supervisor, said applicants would stand a good chance. The company needs more security guards.

"We're hiring all the time, and we have a lot of open positions right now," he told one candidate. "We train," he added to another.

The Department of Human Resources said 44 employers and 2,100 job seekers attended the fair.

Myra Washington, 47, who lives in Ednor Gardens, came with copies of her resume in search of a customer service position. She's said she's been looking since March, when her telemarketing job was cut.

"It's kind of slow right now," Washington said. She's found that employers are hiring, but not for jobs in her field. "A lot of trained professionals are getting positions - you know, college graduates."

A mortgage company at the fair promised to get back to her at the end of the month, when it starts hiring salespeople. It's not customer service, but she's got the experience.

"I've sold cars, I've sold cemetery property, I've sold advertisements," Washington said.

jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

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