By Raymund Lee Flandez
ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s August unemployment rate of 4.2 percent is unchanged from July, indicating that jobless rates may have bottomed out as the state’s economy continues its shaky recovery.
The national rate dipped .3 percentage points in the same time period.
The state’s August rate, the latest available, was 1.5 percentage points below the national average of 5.7 percent. The same time last year, Maryland was at 4.1 percent, a .8-point difference from the national average then of 4.9 percent.
“The record number of Marylanders in the work force, combined with jobless rates well below the national average, is more evidence of the fundamental strength of the state’s economy,” said Gov. Parris Glendening in a statement.
Maintaining a jobless rate level significantly below the U.S. average is almost always a good sign for the state, said Patrick Arnold, the state’s director of Labor Market Analysis and Information.
“If there are downturns, in the form of reduced consumer confidence or slowdown in the housing industry or whatever (in the next six months), Maryland is better poised at dealing with that than a lot of other states,” he said.
Demand for seasonal workers ebbed in August by 29,235 workers, or 1.3 percent, to 2.8 million, according to figures released Friday.
But hiring swells in construction and state education, coupled with new jobs in trucking and apparel stores, helped maintain the number of those jobless in Maryland at 122,648, the state reported. July’s unemployed numbered 124,993.
“As the summer concludes and other seasonal industries recall workers, we remain confident that the state will continue to demonstrate its economic stability,” said John P. O’Connor, secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, in a statement.
Montgomery County posted the state’s lowest unemployment rate, 2.6 percent, however several other counties also boasted rates below 3 percent, including Queen Anne’s, Calvert, Frederick and Talbot. Baltimore’s rate was highest at 7.8 percent.
The latest unemployment numbers are just one of the key indicators that could make the state’s path to recovery a little clearer and brighter.
The state’s economy “is waking up from its slump,” said Pradeep Ganguly, chief economist for the state Department of Business and Economic Development. “So far, it’s been a jobless recovery. Better numbers will come in the future. But now, it’s a painfully slow recovery.”