Recovery in state slow but steady Fed report shows area economy is stuck at a low level.


WASHINGTON -- Maryland's recovery from the recession, which had been slow and steady throughout the spring and early summer, became mixed during the last six weeks, according to the Federal Reserve.

A Maryland official, who had disagreed with the Fed's last evaluation of the state's recovery, confirmed the views in this most recent report, issued yesterday.

"The [mixed] overview . . . somewhat summarizes the Maryland economy for July and August," said Bob Schoeplein, director of research for the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.

The survey, which is based on individual reports from each of the Federal Reserve's 12 regional banks, includes the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Virginia and North and South Carolina in the same 5th district as Maryland.

The Fed report said manufacturing activity rose somewhat in the 5th district, while retail sales and exports declined. Employment was steady in manufacturing but lower in retail businesses.

"We do not have state data on retail sales yet, but our retail sales tax receipts of $129 million are about $5 million short of what the state comptroller's office had forecast," Schoeplein said.

Although national economic analysts have been fearful of a double-dip recession, Schoeplein said there are no signs of any weakness that would signal that in Maryland.

"We have no warning signs on the horizon, we just have stable activity without strong increases," he said, adding that he and other economists in the 5th district expect to see increases during the last quarter of this year.

"In a sense we're stuck, but we're not stuck at zero, we're stuck at a certain level of real economic activity each week," he said. "We're just not moving as quickly as we would want. We predicted a stronger recovery."

One possible explanation for the slow recovery is that outstanding consumer debt is declining, he said.

That means that people are paying off more than they are incurring new additional debt, he said.

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