Economic reports suggest that recession may be on its last legs Other states lose jobs, income, but Maryland holds its own


NEW YORK -- Stripped of subtle indicators and economic jargon, the crux of a recession for most states is how many of its residents are working and how much they are earning.

While the recession may have dampened economic activity everywhere, a recent national study by Salomon Brothers found that the extent and manner of the slowdown differ markedly among states.

In Maryland, there has been a precipitous slide in the growth rate of jobs and income since they peaked in the mid-1980s, when growth varied between 4 percent and 7 percent. But jobs and income continue to grow, albeit at less than 1 percent.

That not only puts Maryland in far better shape than the New England states, where both the number of jobs and the aggregate income has shrunk by as much as 4 percent, but also in better shape than adjacent states and the District of Columbia.

Both Virginia and Washington continue to show some small pTC growth in jobs. But in the past year they, unlike Maryland, have experienced a contraction in income, with Virginia losing about 2 percent. Delaware has experienced a contraction in income of about 2 percent as well as a contraction in employment of almost 1 percent.

Typically, the lowest wage earners get hit the hardest during a recession, Robert Hopkins, a Salomon Brothers analyst, said.

This was the case in 1982, the last recession, and is now the case in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine, all New England states especially hard hit by the current contractions.

But the phenomenon of income declining faster than employment witnessed in Virginia and Washington, as well as in Connecticut and New York and to a lesser extent, throughout the country, may indicate, Mr. Hopkins said,a shift in the underlying structure of these states' economies.

The more accelerated decline in income raises the possibility that it is the high-salary jobs that are being purged as the quality of new jobs deteriorates -- a trend Mr. Hopkins labels "the hamburger-flipper syndrome".

That has many potential implications. Mr. Hopkins cited the commercial real estate market, arguing that any reduction in high-income jobs could be another blow to the market for glitzy high-priced downtown office towers that often are the workplace for high-income employees.

More sheltered are the simple and inexpensive buildings used for clerical functions, such as processing airline reservations and insurance claims.

There are exceptions to this trend, most notably Hawaii, where income and employment growth have slowed a little but remain close to a robust 4 percent. "It's retained its independence from the mainland," Mr. Hopkins said.

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