Maryland added 800 jobs in July, as gains in the private sector were offset by a loss of government jobs, according to the latest federal employment report.
Despite modest job growth, the state's unemployment rate continued to decline, even as more people joined the workforce. About 6,300 people joined Maryland's workforce in July, but the state's unemployment rate declined by a tenth of a percentage point, to 4 percent, as most of those seeking jobs found them, according to new estimates released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Andy Bauer, a senior regional economist in the Baltimore branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, described the month's results as a "decidedly positive signal."
"It's part of the positive trend we've been seeing," Bauer said. "Growth in the labor force has been strong.
"As you have people come in, the labor markets are strong enough that they're absorbing this strong inflow and the number of unemployed people trends lower."
The report also revised the state's job gain in June to 16,600, up from previous estimates of 13,300 jobs.
In July, Maryland gained 11,500 private sector jobs but lost 10,700 government jobs, according to the report.
The private sector lost a combined 2,200 jobs in three sectors: financial activities; professional and business services; and trade, transportation and utilities.
But declines in those sectors were buoyed by gains elsewhere.
The state's education and health services sector saw the greatest job growth, adding 9,800 jobs, with a little over two-thirds of those in education services.
Leisure and hospitality employers added 600 jobs.
Manufacturers added about 1,000 jobs in July and the state gained 2,700 construction jobs. Though smaller than the state's gains in education and health care, analysts were encouraged by growth in manufacturing and construction, two areas that were among those hit the hardest during the last recession.
"There are cranes everywhere," said Joe Gonzales, a Baltimore-based regional vice president of staffing agency Robert Half. "It's a positive sign anytime manufacturing is picking up and looking good, as well as construction."
Gov. Larry Hogan has made a push to grow Maryland's manufacturing industry, with incentives for manufacturers to hire more workers and new job training programs.
"Manufacturing and construction — along with many other industries — are changing Maryland for the better," Maryland Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz said in a statement. "Their production of goods and creation of new homes, workplaces, and retail are contributing to our economy in practical ways, and providing jobs for Marylanders."
While manufacturing has been growing in Maryland, Baltimore-based economist Anirban Basu cautioned against reading too much into monthly numbers.
Basu, who is CEO of the Baltimore consulting firm Sage Policy Group, pointed to the Department of Labor's year-over-year estimates, which show manufacturing jobs down by 100 in July compared with the same month last year and adjusted for seasonal changes.
Still, Mike Galiazzo, president of the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland, is optimistic.
Galiazzo said many local manufacturers have more jobs to fill — if only they could find qualified workers. In a recent survey conducted by the nonprofit organization, the majority of the 90 owners who responded reported strong business sales.
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"I think that would obviously have an impact on whether they're hiring," he said.
In addition to the traditional manufacturers that still call Maryland home, nontraditional manufacturers are on the rise, especially in the Baltimore area.
Makerspaces, such as Open Works in Greenmount West, are giving way to entrepreneurs and small-scale manufacturers interested in making goods locally. City Garage, the so-called innovation hub run by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's private development firm, Sagamore Development, has space for Under Armour to experiment with manufacturing products locally. City Garage also houses The Foundery, another makerspace with industrial-grade tools and machinery.
Union Craft Brewing announced plans in May to redevelop a 10.5-acre former plastics plant into a manufacturing and retail complex that will house an expanded brewery, as well as other small-scale manufacturers. Ice cream maker The Charmery and The Baltimore Whiskey Company are among the incoming tenants that have been named.
"The trend in Maryland manufacturing is on the uptick," Galiazzo said. "After years of negative, 'manufacturing is dead,' we're seeing hopefulness."