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Maryland loses 6,200 jobs in June

Maryland loses 6,200 jobs in June
A job seeker fills out a registration card to enter a career fair. (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)

Maryland employers shed 6,200 jobs in June — one of the largest monthly declines in the country, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

The losses came after two months of significant gains. The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said the new estimates showed "a smoothing out of recent hiring," alluding to the statistical distortions that can appear in month-to-month data.

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Despite the losses, the state's unemployment rate dipped a tenth of a percentage point to 5.2 percent last month, even as more people entered the workforce.

"The June numbers themselves were a bit disappointing, with the job losses … but I think for the second quarter as a whole, it's been actually a very good quarter," said Mekael Teshome, an economist for PNC Financial Services Group. "I don't think the decline is indicative of any negative trend."

The cuts last month touched nearly all sectors in Maryland, with the heaviest losses in education/health services and government, which shed 3,800 and 3,000 jobs respectively. The new report also reduced May's estimated job gains from 13,500 to 12,200.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector added 3,800 jobs, manufacturing added 400 and leisure and hospitality added about 100.

In Baltimore City, more than 150 layoff notices went out to public school employees at the end of May — the first layoffs in at least a decade. Johns Hopkins University also announced the layoff of 41 university administration staff. Thirteen more positions were "identified for restructuring," and 51 vacant positions will not be filled.

The cuts were part of an effort to reduce the school's administrative costs by as much as 10 percent in coming years.

Spokesman Dennis O'Shea said Hopkins has made changes to its health plans and improved purchasing processes to address rising costs, but decided "more must be done to ensure financial stability for the long run, allow for progress on strategic goals and ensure support for the university's research, teaching, patient care and service missions."

"The next step was to identify ways to make the university's central administrative functions more efficient and focused," he wrote in an email. "That was the genesis of this university administration budget initiative."

Many of the 2,600 jobs lost in education are likely related to the end of the school year and may be restored, said Ting Zhang, an assistant professor of finance and economics at the University of Baltimore.

"People typically forget about the seasonality," she said. "This month might be a little bit short, but it doesn't affect the overall trend."

Maryland was one of 17 states to sustain payroll cuts last month, as employers nationwide added 223,000 jobs and the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 percent, the lowest in seven years.

Only Illinois and New Jersey reported larger losses. Even so, Maryland's cuts remain minimal as a percentage of the state's total employment. Since June of last year, the state has added roughly 38,900 jobs, growth of roughly 1.5 percent.

The Baltimore metro area lost about 1,300 jobs, the Labor Department estimated.

Teshome said he's not convinced there's a link between the numbers — which can be unreliable, particularly at the local level — and the fires and looting that occurred after Freddie Gray's death.

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"It is hard to gauge," he said. "My suspicion is that it's that state level weakness that somehow shows up in the regional numbers."

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