Maryland Employment Situation - January 2009


BALTIMORE, MD (3/20/09) – Maryland jobseekers continued to experience the backlash from the recessionary tremors reverberating through both the national and statewide economy. The number of seasonally adjusted unemployed rose to a record-setting high in January, pushing the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate up from a revised rate of 5.4 percent in December to January’s preliminary rate of 6.2 percent. This is the first time since 1993 that Maryland’s unemployment rate has topped the 6.0 percent mark. Nearly 185,300 Marylanders were counted among the unemployed in January, surpassing a record previously set in January 1982. The difficulties faced by Maryland jobseekers were magnified by increasing reports of impending layoffs and by job losses resulting from the mounting number of business closures, both statewide and nationally. According to officially filed WARN notifications, the number of businesses either scaling back their workforces or ceasing operations all together has steadily increased. Included among the list of reported closures during January were Circuit City, Brunswick and DHL – closures which impacted workers in multiple regions across the state.

The monthly upturn in Maryland’s unemployment rate, of 0.8 percentage points, was noticeably higher than that of 0.4 percentage points which raised the national unemployment rate to 7.6 percent in January. Even so, Maryland’s unemployment rate has, during the downturn, been slower to rise than that of the nation; since December 2007, the unemployment rate nationally has risen by 3 full percentage points compared to that of 2.6 percentage points in Maryland.

The movement of Maryland’s seasonally adjusted industry payrolls during January countered expectations, with preliminary data showing a slight upturn in the number of jobs. The seasonally adjusted increase, however, could be described as a “false positive” resulting from a statistical blip created by the seasonal adjustment methodology.* Comparing industry movements over the past year (January 2008-January 2009) tends to be more reflective of the path and pace of spiraling economics. Since January 2008, an estimated 39,000 jobs have vanished from industry payrolls. Within the private sector, all major business sectors, with the exception of professional/business services and education/health services, have lost employment. Cuts have been the deepest in trade/transportation/utilities where just over 22,000 jobs have been shed. Construction has declined at the fastest pace, dropping by 9.5 percent over the past twelve months.

The normal seasonal upturn in local non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates anticipated this time of year was exacerbated by the deepening recession. Locally, unemployment rates, both over-the-month and over-the-year, were higher in each of the state’s jurisdictions. Monthly employment declines produced rate increases of a full percentage point or more in all jurisdictions with the exception of Charles, Howard and Montgomery counties. Worcester County’s rate climbed higher on the double-digit scale, moving up to a statewide high of 16.9 percent in January. Baltimore City and Dorchester County joined Worcester on the double-digit scale with rates for January climbing to 10.0 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively.

* In the seasonal adjustment process, factors are developed for each industry supersector based on historical seasonal patterns and magnitudes. These factors are then applied to unadjusted data which are derived from sample based estimates. If sample based estimates behave atypically, applying historically derived seasonal adjustment factors can sometimes skew data.