Maryland's Economy Outperforms Expectations

by Anirban Basu 13. April 2012
Anirban Basu
Anirban Basu, Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc.

 

Job creation has picked up in Maryland. After stumbling for much of the previous summer, recent months have been very positive from a job growth perspective.  The working hypothesis is that this represents economic multiplier effects related to base realignment activities at Fort George G. Meade in Anne Arundel County and at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.

Between February 2011 and February 2012, employment in the Free State increased 1.9 percent or by 47,000 jobs according to establishment survey data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That ranks the state seventh in the nation with respect to year-over-year percentage job growth, a significant improvement from a particular period last year when Maryland ranked dead last (May 2010 v. May 2011).  Leading growth sectors include construction (+5.0%), education and health services (+4.2%), professional and business services (+3.1%) and leisure and hospitality (+2.9%).  Base realignment has helped to support job growth in a number of key business segments, including professional services and construction.

State-by-State Job Growth

Maryland's January 2012 unemployment rate represented the lowest rate in three years.  The state's jobless rate dropped to 6.5 percent in January, almost 2 full percentage points below the national average of 8.3 percent for that month (now 8.2 percent; March 2012).

Other sources of information are similarly sanguine.  A recent Maryland Survey of Business Activity conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond indicates that business activity increased at a solid pace in March with the general business activity index jumping to 26 from 8 – the highest reading since April 2011.  Roughly 50 percent of respondents in the March survey expect business conditions and sales revenue to improve over the next six months.

Despite the emergence of optimism, headwinds remain.  As of this writing, U.S. equity markets are in retreat and long-term interest rates are falling, an indication of ongoing concern regarding the economic outlook.  The consensus forecast is for roughly 2 percent growth in America in 2012, with the implication being that the economic recovery remains fragile.

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Mr. Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City’s economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

 

Maryland's 2012 Economic Outlook with Anirban Basu

by Anirban Basu 18. January 2012

Anirban Basu

Anirban Basu Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc

Maryland Gained Momentum Late Last Year

For much of last year, Maryland’s economic performance was among the worst in the nation. For instance, year-over-year job growth in the state was in negative territory or close to zero for most of the summer. But like the balance of the nation, economic performance began to materially improve toward the tail end of the year. For the 12 months ending in November 2011, employment in the Free State expanded 0.7 percent (+18,300 jobs), ranking the state 33rd along this dimension. That may not sound like anything to crow about, but just a few months prior, Maryland ranked dead last. Maryland’s subpar performance mid-year appears to have been closely linked to the nation’s debt ceiling debacle and the impact of that episode on federal agency spending, including upon procurement.

Exhibit 1. State-by-state Job Growth, 12-month Percent Change, November 2011

1st Mariner Blog - State-by-state Job Growth, November 2011

Through it all, Maryland has managed to sustain one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates. Statewide unemployment declined to 6.9 percent in November, the lowest level since June 2011. That is the 15th lowest unemployment rate in the country.

Other data is also largely encouraging. The most recent Maryland Survey of Business Activity conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond indicates that business activity in Maryland increased moderately in December. The general business activity index registered a reading of 7, a meaningful increase from -3 the previous month and the first positive reading since September. The expectations index, which declined 9 points to 22, indicated that while broadly positive expectations of general business conditions six months from now have moderated slightly, survey respondents continue to predict economic growth in the near term.

All of this is consistent with the notion that some of the factors that restrained growth in 2011, including federal government gridlock, sagging home prices and issues emerging from Europe, are likely to continue to shape economic performance during the first half of 2012. However, despite these and other headwinds, the state’s economy is anticipated to continue to grind ahead for now.

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Mr. Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City’s economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

Pace of Job Growth Remains Lackluster

by Anirban Basu 18. October 2011

Anirban BasuThis was supposed to be a decent year for job growth in Maryland.  With the nation’s economy now in recovery and adding jobs, positive base realignment effects, cyber-security, healthcare, higher education, the Port of Baltimore, BWI, retail and other industry drivers, expectations were probably higher coming into the year than at any point since 2007.

But the state’s job engine has generally sputtered.  According to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland’s economy shed 2,500 jobs in August, a 0.1 percent drop from the previous month and only up 0.1 percent from one year prior.  That year-over-year performance ranks the state 43rd in terms of job growth.  During the same twelve-month period, the nation added 1.49 million jobs or 1.0 percent.

While the nation has outperformed Maryland along this dimension, data indicate that job growth has been softening nationally.  This may seem like a strange claim to make since the most recent employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the nation added 103,000 nonfarm jobs in September, the best performance since July and better than August’s 57,000 net new jobs figure.

But dig into the data, and the message from September is not as clear.  The 103,000 figure includes roughly 45,000 Verizon workers who came back to work.  Strip out those jobs, and the September figure looks more like 58,000.  What’s more, those 45,000 information industry workers went missing from the August jobs data, which means that actual job creation in August was closer to 100,000.  However, approximately 22,000 State of Minnesota employees came back to work in August, meaning that the adjusted August figure is around 78,000.  Consequently, while many people are under the impression that job growth accelerated in September, it did not when one takes extraordinary items into account

What’s more, the pace of job growth continues to fall well short of what is needed to bring down the nation’s unemployment.  For several months, the nation’s leading measure of unemployment has been stuck at 9.1 percent and the nation still has roughly 6.6 million fewer jobs than it did when the recession began in December 2007.  The industries that have suffered the largest job losses include manufacturing, construction and distribution, all key industries in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

The employment look remains cloudy.  Financial markets swooned during the third quarter, perhaps implying further economic slowing in the months ahead.  Were that to occur, job growth would remain lackluster at best.

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Mr. Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City’s economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.



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