Maryland added more than 14,000 jobs in August, the second-highest monthly gain in seven years, as the unemployment rate dipped to a pre-recession level of 3.9 percent, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday.
The state's jobless rate remained lower than the nation's, which was 4.4 percent in August, according to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was the lowest unemployment rate in Maryland since May 2008, in the early months of the Great Recession.
Maryland saw an increase of 14,200 jobs from July to August, according to preliminary data, with a surge in professional and business services. The state's job gain was second only to Georgia's, which saw employment jump by 19,800 jobs. Maryland ranked third in the nation in employment increase by percentage, with a 0.5 percent gain, behind New Mexico and New Hampshire. Most of the state's job gains have come in the private sector.
"We're seeing real meaningful growth at an accelerated pace," said Gary Keith, regional economist for M&T Bank. "Maryland is seeing a nice pickup in what had been good, solid growth previously. People are more confident about coming into the workforce because of their ability to get hired, and we're seeing that hiring happening."
The state has added 63,600 jobs, a 2.3 percent increase, since August 2016, for a total of 2.8 million jobs. Employment numbers have increased in five months so far this year, including August. Maryland is benefiting from growth in business and professional services and education and health care, industries where the state has a larger share of people employed than the national average.
"The timing is right to be in those industries," Keith said. "We're able to capitalize on our strengths in these sectors to bump up the job growth."
Continued growth in construction and moderate growth in retail has also helped, he said.
"This is really the latest in a pretty positive year," said Sonya Ravindranath Waddell, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. "Maryland was one of six states in the country with statistically significant employment growth."
But she warned against putting too much stock in a single month's results because job growth has been volatile this year, including some months of job losses and one month, June, of even higher job gains. Still, Maryland has been on an upward trend long-term in employment, with job gains up 2.3 percent between August 2016 and last month, well above the 1.4 percent national growth rate.
Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement that the state added more than 10 times more private-sector jobs in the past 2½ years than were added in the previous eight years, while unemployment remains at its lowest level in nearly a decade. The state has added 127,600 jobs since January 2015.
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"A top priority of our administration has been growing our private sector and creating more jobs, and we have made incredible progress," Hogan said.
Maryland Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz credited workforce development programs and regulatory reform for helping to boost jobs in the state.
Jobs increased by 5,300 in the professional and business services sector, by 3,200 jobs in the mining and construction sector, and by 1,700 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector.
Unemployment rates remained stable in 41 states and Washington, the government's report said.
Hurricane Harvey did not affect the data, which was mostly gathered before the storm, the Labor Department said.