Summer's arrival brought Maryland a slight uptick in unemployment despite a larger-than-normal employment bump in June, but it also contributed to significantly more job losses in May than previously thought, state labor officials said Friday.
Maryland employers added 7,700 jobs last month, with the strongest gains in tourism-related industries, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
But the bureau revised May's losses to 6,800 jobs, substantially worse than preliminary estimates of 1,300 fewer jobs. Maryland Labor Secretary Leonard Howie attributed some of the trend to the end of the school year.
Despite the job market's improvement in June, the state's unemployment rate rose for a second straight month from 5.6 percent in May to 5.8 percent in June. The increasing number of people looking for work and unable to find it came even as Maryland's labor force shrunk, the Labor Department said.
"It's kind of a mixed bag of good news and bad news," said Daraius Irani, chief economist for the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University.
The private sector has been the driver of job growth in the past month and over the past year as a whole. Just 600 of the jobs gained in June were government positions, largely in state and local governments. And 95 percent of the 24,100 jobs gained since June 2013 were in the private sector.
But economists called that performance in government jobs neutral, if not positive, given expectations that federal budget cutbacks could have significant effects in Maryland.
"That doesn't seem like a hemorrhage to me by any stretch," said Kevin McIntyre, an associate professor of economics at McDaniel College in Westminster.
The leisure and hospitality industries showed the strongest gains last month, adding 2,100 jobs. That could be a sign of the state's wealth providing economic resilience, said Anirban Basu, CEO of Baltimore economic consulting firm Sage Policy Group.
"Consumers are choosing to spend more on discretionary items, including travel," Basu said. "This looks like it's going to be another banner summer for Ocean City, and other spots like Deep Creek Lake seem to be quite active."
But overall, none of the changes were dramatic, another sign of the increasing stability of the state's economy, Basu added.
"Maryland is home to one of the flattest economies in America," he said. "This is not an economy with extreme upward momentum."
Given that labor data is a lagging economic indicator, the up-and-down nature of Maryland's unemployment so far this year could be evidence of disappointing gross domestic product figures for the first quarter of the year, McIntyre said, and not necessarily a bad sign for the future.
The June job numbers do not reflect new hires at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Howie said. The Russell Street casino, slated to open in late August, received 31,000 applications for 1,700 to 1,900 part- and full-time jobs there, officials said. The casino's general manager said last month that half of job offers made at that point were extended to city residents.
Economists and one staffing executive said they expect the state's labor market to remain steady.
"At the end of each quarter and year, you look and it's better than the prior year," said Mitch Halbrich, senior director of executive consulting for Randstad Professionals in Baltimore. "It's slow, deliberate progress."
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