Maryland's jobless rate rose to 4.3 percent in March but 3,200 jobs were added

Maryland’s unemployment rate ticked up to 4.3 percent in March even as the state added 3,200 jobs, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday.

The state last month more than recovered the 1,000 jobs it lost in February, for a total of 2.73 million jobs, according to preliminary statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The jobless rate has been rising slowly since January, when it was 4.1 percent, up to 4.2 percent in February and 4.3 percent last month. The unemployment rate in the U.S. remained unchanged at 4.1 percent in March.

The rising unemployment rate amid job growth can be attributed to more people entering the workforce, said Richard Clinch, executive director of the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore.

“It’s a good time to be a job seeker,” Clinch said, in a state where the outlook is for “slow and steady growth.”

Wage growth should start accelerating as well, he said.

Clinch said he doesn’t see incremental changes in the unemployment rate as significant, especially when the state is considered at near full employment with a rate below 5 percent.

“We’re seeing increased participation in the labor force, as well as an increase in the number of jobs,” state Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz said in a statement.

Maryland gained jobs last month primarily in the professional and business services and trade sector, which added 1,500 jobs, and the transportation and utilities sector, which saw an increase of 1,400 jobs. The state also experienced job growth as well in construction and in leisure and hospitality.

Though professional services has been adding jobs, the rate of growth has slowed in that sector, leading to an overall slowdown in job growth in the state, said Andy Bauer, a senior regional economist in the Baltimore branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

“You would expect to see a slowdown in [overall] hiring as the expansion continues, each year with job growth more moderate,” he said. “Openings are being created, but there are less available workers, so you would expect to see moderation.”

He said it has been unusual to see a hiring slowdown in the IT sub-sector of professional and business services, which could be attributed to uncertainty in federal spending.

Unemployment insurance claims for March are at a 10-year low in Maryland, but the total number of employers paying into the system is growing, the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said.

Job losses in Maryland occurred in financial activities, manufacturing, education and health services.

The number of jobs remained essentially unchanged in most states in the U.S., and only two saw increases, the labor department said.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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