Maryland employers added 2,100 jobs in November

Unemployment remains at 7.4 percent

December 17, 2010|By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland employers added 2,100 jobs in November, though the hiring wasn't enough to budge the unemployment rate, which remained steady, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Friday.

The number of jobs added — driven in large part by retailers and local governments — wasn't enough to keep up with the number of residents entering the work force for the first time or looking for a job again after temporarily giving up. Maryland's rate was 7.4 percent in November, the third month in a row, the Labor Department estimated.

Nationally, 9.8 percent of people in the labor force didn't have a job last month and were trying to get one.

Sara Kline, an economist with Moody's Analytics, said the changes in November were generally good news for Maryland. After shrinking through much of the recession, the number of people in the state's labor force — either working or looking for work — hit its highest point in more than a year.

"Residents are feeling a little more confident … after sitting on the sidelines during the recession," Kline said.

The Labor Department numbers are preliminary, and they are often revised. The agency originally thought Maryland employers added 5,900 jobs during the month of October, for instance, but now puts the figure at 3,100.

The state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation noted that November marked the sixth straight month in Maryland that the number of total jobs was higher than the year-earlier period. Last year was a low point for the national and Maryland economies as the worst recession in decades ate away at the job base.

Some Maryland industries added jobs in November, particularly the trade, transportation and utilities category — up by nearly 4,000 positions. That includes retailers, which accounted for more than half the gain. The numbers are adjusted to try to account for seasonal variations in hiring and layoffs, which means the Labor Department is seeing more increases in retail jobs than usual this time of year.

But the private sector shed employment overall last month, down by 700 jobs. After adding jobs for most of the year, it has pulled back during three of the past four months.

A 2,800-job increase in the government sector helped keep the state from reporting a net jobs loss in November, according to the estimates.

All told, Maryland employers had 31,000 more people on their payrolls in November than they did a year earlier. But there's a long way to go before recessionary job losses are erased. Even with recent gains, the state is 75,000 jobs short of the number it had in November 2007, just before the economy soured.

That has left many residents stuck in long stretches of unemployment. President Barack Obama signed legislation Friday reauthorizing a program that allows laid-off workers to collect unemployment benefits for up to 73 weeks in Maryland and as many as 99 weeks in the hardest-hit states.

After the emergency program expired Nov. 30, residents who hit either their 46th or 60th week were cut off early. Others weren't allowed to start collecting the emergency payments after exhausting their normal 26 weeks of state benefits.

Julie Ellen Squire, assistant secretary for the state's unemployment-insurance division, said Marylanders whose emergency benefits were cut short will get their next check on Monday. She expects that her staff will be able to process payments next week for residents whose state benefits ended after the emergency program expired.

The payments will be made retroactively to make up for the weeks that the benefits lapsed.

Though the program was extended, the maximum number of payments residents can collect hasn't changed. Laid-off Marylanders who have already received 73 weeks aren't eligible for more.

"We do get a lot of calls from individuals who are wondering about that every time there's one of these extensions," Squire said.

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