Maryland gains 1,000 jobs

Unemployment remains steady at 4.1%


Maryland employers added a relatively slim 1,000 jobs last month as unemployment held steady at 4.1 percent, the U.S. Labor Department said yesterday.

The state showed a solid gain of 51,800 jobs over the past 12 months, a figure that economists watch closely because they consider it a more reliable measure of local performance than monthly changes. The numbers are adjusted for seasonal variations.

"The message is more of the same, which is great," said John Hopkins, associate director for applied economics at RESI, Towson University's research and consulting arm. "Maryland continues to leverage its assets, those assets being a high presence of the defense industry, a high presence of science-related industries and the low presence of manufacturing."

Old-line manufacturers continue to struggle nationwide - chief among them General Motors Corp., which announced this week that it will cut 30,000 jobs in the next three years.

But this region is not the manufacturing stronghold it once was, so "Maryland's already gone through that pain," Hopkins said.

The state added jobs at a rate of 2 percent over the past year, outstripping the nation's 1.4 percent rate. Only 10 states are increasing their employment bases at a faster pace than Maryland's - none of them on the heavily developed East Coast except Florida.

Economists say there's no reason to expect local growth will slow anytime soon because the national military realignment will bring tens of thousands of jobs to the state in the next five years or so.

"The future is very bright," said Richard P. Clinch, director of economic research at the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute.

Last month's growth was less than average - Maryland typically needs 3,500 to 4,000 new jobs a month to keep pace with population growth - but the Labor Department adjusted its numbers for September upward to 8,400 jobs. It was the second-best monthly performance this year.

"That was a bit of a peak," said Rakesh Shankar, the Maryland economist for research firm Moody's

Shankar expects growth to pick up again in the next two months for the holiday hiring period and continue accelerating next year. He is predicting 58,000 new jobs in 2006.

The state's unemployment rate of 4.1 percent remains below the nation's, which was 5 percent last month.

Maryland's labor force - the people working or looking for work - increased last month, while the number of unemployed residents dropped by 1,100.

"There's really not a lot of slack labor in Maryland," Clinch said.

Maryland's main growth sectors over the past 12 months were professional and business services, which added 12,800 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities, which increased by 10,300 jobs; education and health services, up 9,300 jobs; and leisure and hospitality, which added 8,400 jobs.

Only manufacturing, down 4,600 jobs, saw a decrease over the year.

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