"From Maryland's perspective, their bad news is over," said Margaret Murphy, vice president of the Baltimore branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va. "They were an early loser for the old industrial base."
Jobs ticked upward slightly to 179,000 in the first quarter of 2000, the latest figures available.
Patrick Arnold, director of labor market analysis and information in the state's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said that the slow growth could continue, adding another 1.5 percent to 2 percent this year.
"If there is a nationwide slowdown, we're expecting Maryland to fare pretty well in that," he said.
"We're not like some states that have had very precipitous increases, particularly in high tech. Our growth is much more manageable in my view."
A nationwide downturn in manufacturing had gathered enough momentum by year-end to help convince the Federal Reserve to reverse course. After a series of six interest-rate boosts, the Fed cut interest rates a half-point early this month.
The National Association of Purchasing Management's factory index dropped to 43.7 in December from 47.7 in November - the fifth consecutive monthly decline.
The Fed acted the day after the index was released, saying the cut was made "in light of further weakening of sales and production."
Art Stowe, president of the Printing and Imaging Industries of Maryland, said "the industry is running a little scared like everybody else."
"The big concerns are about dot-coms going out of business, and they have done an awful lot of print advertising over the past several years," he said.
Despite those worries, Stowe said industry analysts expect the printing industry to see increased sales of about 4 percent in 2001.
"We hope that that's valid," he said. "Personally, I'm fairly optimistic that we're going to do the 4 percent. I'm just not comfortable that the economy is exceedingly strong and am concerned about the dot-coms."
Mark Vitner, an economist who follows the area for First Union Corp., a banking company based in Charlotte, N.C., doesn't expect major job losses in the manufacturing sector this year, but gains are also unlikely.
One company to watch is Millennium Inorganic Chemicals of Hunt Valley, which employs about 450 at its plant in South Baltimore.
The maker of titanium dioxide plans a multimillion-dollar expansion but warned that if state and local officials don't come up with incentives for the money to be invested in Baltimore, the future of the plant could be in jeopardy.