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Maryland adds 3,600 jobs in November, but jobless rate climbs

Maryland adds 3,600 jobs in November, but jobless rate climbs
A job seeker fills out a registration card to enter a career fair. (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)

After adding 3,600 jobs in November, according to the latest government figures released Friday, Maryland's economy has added 46,100 private-sector jobs in the past year.

The state's job gains came across multiple industries as the national economy continued to strengthen.

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The state's unemployment rate inched up to 5.2 percent last month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported, but state officials even saw a silver lining in that increase.

Citing growth of nearly 9,500 people in the civilian labor force, Kelly M. Schulz, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said that suggests "that at least some previously discouraged workers who had given up their job search have gained confidence in Maryland's economy and started looking for work again.

"That's good news," she said.

Maryland was among 11 states with unemployment increases. The jobless rate inched up from October's revised rate of 5 percent. It's now slightly above the national rate of 5 percent. The rate fell in 27 other states.

Maryland's unemployment rate is lower than it was in November last year, when it was 5.5 percent. And in a measure that does not adjust for seasonal differences, the number of unemployed people dipped slightly from October to November.

The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised Maryland's strong job gains in October even higher, reporting that the state gained 11,900 jobs compared to its earlier estimate of 10,800 jobs for that month.

The state's month-over-month job growth shows that a strengthening national recovery finally is taking hold in Maryland, said Richard Clinch, director of the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore. The state has tended to lag behind the national economy, he said.

"The good news is across-the-board job growth," Clinch said.

He warned that a small increase in professional services jobs could be concerning because the sector is a key driver of the state's economy.

But the year-over-year gain of more than 53,000 jobs statewide, including the 46,100 in the private sector, is well above the 30,000 to 40,000 needed to keep pace with population growth, he said.

Though November's numbers are preliminary and subject to revision, "Maryland is growing, and we're seeing growth in the private sector," said Daraius Irani, chief economist at Towson University's Regional Economic Studies Institute.

November's job gains show that more state businesses "recognize that Maryland is 'Open for Business,'" said Schulz in Friday's announcement, echoing Gov. Larry Hogan's economic development slogan.

In November, the manufacturing sector added 1,200 jobs, while the trade, transportation and utilities sector gained 1,900 jobs. The professional and business services sector added 900 jobs.

The construction sector added 300 jobs at a time when demand for construction projects is heating up nationally. Maryland was one of 38 states with job growth in the sector.

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Ken Simonson, chief economist for Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America, said contractors are busier now than a year ago in nearly every state. Spending on construction projects underway nationwide has jumped 13 percent between October 2014 and October of this year, he said.

The gains are spread across multifamily housing, mixed-use projects with hotels or offices, and public construction on schools and other facilities, he said.

In Maryland, that has meant more apartment construction, partly driven by millennials who may not qualify for mortgages and want to live in urban areas, and more construction of office buildings in transit-oriented projects, Simonson said.

On a year-over-year basis, "Maryland has consistently been adding jobs in construction at or above the national rate for several months in a row, rising at 4 to 5 percent year-to-year," he said. "I don't seen any reason to expect a slowdown."

Some construction crews could have been kept on jobs longer into November because of warmer temperatures in some regions, he said. And this December so far has been the warmest on record.

"We will have another good year in 2016 based on permits and projects breaking ground," he said.

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