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Jobs grew 6 percent in downtown Baltimore in 2010

As the economy improved, the number of jobs in downtown Baltimore rose 6 percent last year — the first gain in three years and a much faster pace of employment growth than in the entire city, statistics to be released Tuesday by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore show.

Employment in a one-mile radius from the intersection of Pratt and Light streets grew to more than 113,400 jobs from about 106,700 in 2009, the group reported. The statistics are the first available from the Downtown Partnership's annual State of Downtown report, which it plans to unveil in April.

"We were surprised," said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership. "After two years of recession, we were bracing for some bad news and instead we were able to identify some significant job growth. We feel that the tide has turned since the recession hit for Baltimore."

The report paints a rosier picture than employment data for the city as a whole from the U.S. Labor Department. According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 350,800 employees worked in jobs citywide last year — about 600 fewer than in 2009, a 0.2 percent decline. The government showed employment losses in the city each month through May, but the city began to add jobs each month for the rest of the year.

The Downtown Partnership numbers, compiled by Nielsen Claritas SiteReports, which track demographic trends, show a 10 percent gain in downtown jobs over the past five years in the one-mile area, which includes Harbor East, some of Federal Hill, the central business district, the west side, part of Mount Vernon, areas near M&T Bank Stadium and neighborhoods such as Sharp-Leadenhall and Historic Jonestown.

In 2010, the city's downtown ranked sixth out of the top 25 metropolitan downtowns in percentage of employees gained. Only San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, San Diego and Minneapolis had greater gains in downtown jobs, with the top three experiencing double-digit gains, according to the Downtown Partnership.

The statistics showed professional services as the highest-growth sector in Baltimore, with 13.5 percent of all downtown jobs. Other growth sectors included government, which accounts for nearly a quarter of downtown employment; health and social services, which represents 16.6 percent of jobs; finance and insurance, at nearly 13 percent; and accommodations and food served, one-tenth of downtown employment.

Companies that expanded or moved downtown last year included the Veteran Affairs Medical Health Care System, which added an annex location at 209 W. Fayette St.; Paragon Bioservices, which expanded and relocated from East Baltimore to 801 W. Baltimore St.; and RSM McGladrey, which moved from Baltimore County to the Legg Mason tower at 100 International Drive in Harbor East, leasing 38,500 square feet.

RSM McGladrey added about 150 jobs downtown when the accounting, tax and business consulting firm consolidated its downtown and Timonium offices and moved to Harbor East in July. The company employs 300 people.

"The heart of the business community is downtown, and to be part of and have greater access to the city and the major financial center that's downtown is consistent with the firm's strategy to be where those centers exist," said Art Yonowitz, managing director and head of the tax practice for RSM McGladrey in Baltimore. "It feels like the economy is starting to upswing a little bit and more jobs coming into the city doesn't surprise me."

Anirban Basu, chief executive of Baltimore-based economic consulting firm Sage Policy Group, said much of the job growth has been on the outskirts of the central business district, a section within the area tracked by the Downtown Partnership. He also noted that the central business district has struggled with office and retail vacancies.

"There is job growth and absorption of offices in the outer reaches of that one-mile perimeter, such as Canton and Harbor East and areas closer to Fells Point," Basu said. "That seems to be where there is still momentum."

The entire state gained 26,000 jobs last year, Basu said. Baltimore's employment in particular has benefited from improvements in the professional services category as well as the openings of new hotels and restaurants.

"There was, generally speaking, job growth in the broader community," Basu said. "We seem to be bouncing back to a certain extent, though we have very far to go to recover all the losses."


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