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Maryland's unemployment rate ticked up to 4.2 percent in February

Maryland lost more than 3,200 jobs in February, causing the state’s unemployment rate to tick up to 4.2 percent, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday.

The state’s jobless rate had been at 4.1 percent since November, mirroring the national figure until last month, when the U.S. rate held steady as Maryland’s edged up.

“The recent labor market for Maryland has not been positive to put it mildly,” said Andy Bauer, a senior regional economist in the Baltimore branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. “The outlook according to the latest data suggests the labor market in Maryland has kind of stalled over the last 6 months. The overall job decline was not huge, but over the past six months to a year it’s been basically flat.”

The state’s employment base was eroded by 4,800 job loses in the professional and business services sector, 900 jobs lost in leisure and hospitality and 700 jobs lost in financial services.

Those losses were offset by the addition of 1,500 construction jobs, 900 manufacturing jobs and 1,700 jobs in trade, transportation and utilities.

Bauer said he’s seeing a mismatch between the data and the anecdotes he hears from industry leaders about their businesses and their outlooks. He said that makes him believe business are doing better than the numbers show.

“Looking ahead, I won’t be surprised to see the data starts indicating a stronger performance in the labor market,” he said.

He also said that Maryland is heavily dependent on the federal government for jobs in the business and professional services sector — a broad category that includes everything from information technology to accounting. It could be that government contracts have become fewer and have gotten more competitive, or that some employers are concerned about the government spending and are keeping payrolls as lean as possible, Bauer said.

The Labor Department also revised the state’s job gain in January to 14,800 jobs, up from an earlier estimate of nearly 13,000, a point emphasized by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

That means total employment is up for the year. State officials also noted that Maryland has added 1,500 new employers since September 2017.

The state’s workforce remained at close to 2.73 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mercohn

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