The state’s unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in October, down a tenth of a percent from the previous month’s rate and 0.2 percent from a year before, numbers that are historically low but remain above the national average.
The national unemployment rate was 3.7 percent for October, down about 0.4 percentage points from a year earlier, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Andy Bauer, a senior regional economist in the Baltimore branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, said he expected the state’s rate to continue dropping.
“State unemployment is still very low on historical basis, but should it be lower?” he said. “Perhaps given the workforce and the underlying economy.”
Bauer noted federal figures showing Maryland was among the states with a significant gain in employment from 2017, up about 38,500 jobs or 1.4 percent. That should continue in the new year as people newly entering the market find jobs.
Those new people in the market, maybe retirees or people who had stopped looking for a time, could be inflating Maryland’s jobless rate a bit even if they are a good sign for the economy. People want to work and believe they will find jobs, he said. And employers have said that they are looking to fill more positions.
There may be some kind of “friction,” where they haven’t yet been matched to the right jobs or lack the proper skills for the available positions, he said.
Bauer also said that Baltimore and rural areas on the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland don’t have the same level of skills and educational achievement, so their unemployment rates are higher than the state average and maybe pushing the number higher. The rural areas also may not have the same broad mix of available jobs.
The state added an estimated 10,700 jobs in October. Gains came in such sectors as construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; education and health; leisure and hospitality; and government. Employment dropped in only the financial services sector.
State labor officials said they are working to train workers for positions that could otherwise go unfilled.
"Maryland is experiencing tremendous growth, requiring employers to find new ways to build their talent pipeline to meet industry demands," said Kelly M. Schulz, labor secretary, in a statement. "Through innovative workforce development programs like EARN and apprenticeship, we're empowering our industry partners to take an active role in creating the workforce they need to thrive. Together, we’re helping Maryland workers gain new skills and credentials through leading-edge services that build pathways to rewarding careers."