State jobless rate inches up to 3.7% in April

May 17, 2008|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,Sun reporter

Maryland employers cut 1,900 jobs last month as the nation's economic slowdown appeared to filter into the local employment market, according to federal estimates released yesterday.

The jobless rate was 3.7 percent in April, up from 3.6 percent the month before, the Labor Department said. That's the highest it has been since the end of 2006, though it remains well below the nation's rate of 5 percent. The figures, which are preliminary, are adjusted to account for seasonal variations in hiring and layoffs.

The decline in Maryland jobs was the first since the country as a whole began shedding employment in January. The trend was widespread in April - the state was one of 39 that lost ground. But economists warn that month-to-month changes in job numbers at a state level are volatile and don't always paint an accurate picture.

The Labor Department said Maryland gained 31,500 jobs in the past 12 months - an improvement over the average last year, when the housing slump battered construction, finance and other sectors.

Charles W. McMillion, president and chief economist of MBG Information Services in Washington, said Maryland's job growth over the past 12 months has been four times faster than the nation as a whole.

"Maryland gave back a few of the jobs ... gained in March, but job growth in Maryland continues to be remarkably strong," he said.

McMillion, who believes tougher times are ahead for the nation, noted that housing-dependent states such as Florida have taken a beating in employment.

Maryland's education and health services sector, a key part of the economy, added 11,000 jobs in the past 12 months. Professional and business services, another key sector, added 7,000 jobs - much more than the average last year. Government also picked up the pace, adding 8,400 jobs.

But manufacturing, financial activities and construction shed jobs in the past 12 months.

All told, nearly 110,000 Marylanders were looking for work last month but couldn't find it, the federal government said. That's an increase of 1,800 people from the month before and doesn't include jobless residents who have given up the search.

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