The national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in August.

Maryland's jobs picture was improving earlier in the summer. July looked especially strong, with 11,400 positions added, according to the federal government's revised estimates. But employers have shed jobs in four of the past eight months, an up-and-down situation that the state's labor secretary blamed on the nation's economic woes.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, urged Congress to pass President Barack Obama's $447 billion jobs plans. The proposal includes tax cuts for employers and employees, funds to work on roads and bridges and money to hire more firefighters, police officers and teachers.

State labor officials believe it would help save or add about 18,000 jobs in Maryland, but it has drawn criticism from Republicans and some Democrats in Washington.

As political leaders wrangle over how best to help the economy grow, some large employers are poised to cut back in a big way.

Bank of America announced this week that it needs to eliminate 30,000 jobs over the next few years, about 10 percent of its workforce. The financial giant employs about 4,000 in Maryland.

The U.S. Postal Service anticipates that it will need to slash 220,000 jobs — by attrition and layoffs — by 2015. That would reduce its career-employee workforce by nearly 40 percent.

The Postal Service, which says it is on the brink of default without drastic changes, has about 6,800 career employees in its Baltimore district, which includes all of Maryland except the Washington suburbs.

Some employers are hiring. Joe Gonzales, Maryland regional vice president for staffing firm Robert Half International, said he's seeing "a lot of cautious optimism" from companies about adding more workers now or soon. Accounting, finance and information-technology skills are all in demand, he said.

"Some of the companies cut so deeply during the downturn, they need to make some really strategic hires now," Gonzales said.

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