Md.'s jobless rate rose to 4% in Oct.

Jobs still being created, but more slowly

unemployment figure for U.S. was 4.7%

November 21, 2007|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN REPORTER

Unemployment in Maryland rose and job growth slowed last month as national economic troubles touched off by the slumping housing market continue to take a toll.

The state's jobless rate was 4 percent in October, up from 3.9 percent a month earlier and 3.7 percent the month before that, the federal government said yesterday.

But it remains better than the U.S. unemployment rate, which was 4.7 percent last month.

Employers added 28,600 jobs in the past 12 months, according to preliminary estimates - a slowdown since the summer, when year-over-year gains topped 30,000.

The government's estimate for the month-over-month change is gloomier: 3,800 jobs cut in October. But economists downplay the monthly performance because the government's attempt to adjust the number to account for regular seasonal variations often causes odd mathematical hiccups at the state level.

Overall, though, the numbers all paint a picture of a decelerating economy.

"I don't think this is indicative of bad news for Maryland - I think this is indicative of a slowing economy nationally," said Richard P. Clinch, director of economic research with the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute. "The national economy is soft. ... It's clearly uncertain economic times."

Construction, commercial as well as residential, added 3,600 jobs in Maryland in the past 12 months despite the economic challenges. But that's less than half the growth of the housing boom years.

Manufacturing employment, which has been contracting in Maryland for a long time, shed 2,000 jobs from October 2006 through October 2007. It hasn't had a positive 12-month performance since 2000, right before the last recession.

Professional and business services, one of Maryland's mainstay sectors, added 9,200 jobs over the past 12 months, which compares well to the performance of recent years. Education and health services, another key sector, added 6,900 jobs.

Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation noted in a statement that more than 4,000 job seekers joined or rejoined the labor market last month, "an indication that Marylanders remain somewhat optimistic about the statewide economy."

Unfortunately for the job seekers, the ranks of the unemployed grew by 5,500. But Clinch said Maryland's jobless rate remains low.

Unemployment in the region ranged from 6.1 percent in Baltimore City, the highest in the state, to 2.8 percent in Howard. The rate was 3.9 percent in Baltimore County, 3.6 percent in Harford, 3.3 percent in Anne Arundel and 3.1 percent in Carroll, according to numbers released by the state yesterday.

jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

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