It's a rough time to be looking for a job, but applicants can take heart in the fact that Baltimore is less economically challenged than many large metro areas.
That's according to a report released today by the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, which compared the 100 biggest metro areas in the country.
The Baltimore area ranked 18th-best for its relatively small drop in employment during April, May and June versus the first three months of the year. It was also in the top quarter of metro areas for its unemployment rate and the change in gross metropolitan product since its peak before the Wall Street meltdown last year.
"Things are going better in Baltimore than they are in most metropolitan areas," said Alan Berube, senior fellow and research director at the Metropolitan Policy Program. Of course, that's all relative: "They're not exactly going well anywhere at the moment."
The unemployment rate during the second quarter was nearly 8 percent in the Baltimore metro area, for instance.
But gross metropolitan product, a measurement of economic activity, was stable in the Baltimore area between the first and second quarters. That's heartening, Berube said.
"That's going to turn before employment turns, before unemployment turns," he said. "Absent another big hit to the macro economy, I think that's a sign that the Baltimore economy is going to be moving in the right direction pretty soon."
Economic decline is slowing in many metro areas, the Brookings report finds. A few appear to have turned a corner.
Washington, D.C., was one of three metro areas where gross metropolitan product in the second quarter topped previous peaks. The others were Austin and McAllen, both in Texas.
Baltimore's proximity to Washington is why it's doing as well as it is, said Richard P. Clinch, director of economic research at the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute. Federal largesse is a driver for Maryland as a whole, with many businesses directly or indirectly fueled by government spending.
"The big long-term caution for the Maryland economy is what happens when we come to grips with the fact that we can't continue to spend money as a nation this way," Clinch said. "That's when Maryland will experience some real problems."
He doesn't necessarily foresee a Maryland-specific recession. But a spending slowdown will tamp down on economic growth here, Clinch said.
"We have a less diversified economy than we had 10 years ago," he said.