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.

Customer Service: The Mariner Way

by Chris Plude 17. October 2011

1st Mariner Red Carpet Customer ServiceEverywhere you turn someone somewhere is talking about a customer service experience they’ve had.  Too often the conversation is about poor customer service and how horrible the individual felt after the experience.  Excellent customer service is not something taught over night, it comes from a team of individuals working together to come up with new and exciting ways to encourage and motivate the staff of an organization. Being one of the only local banks left in Baltimore, great customer service is crucial to the continued success of 1st Mariner Bank.  Our main focus is on providing outstanding customer service which we have dubbed “Providing Red Carpet Service the 1st Mariner Way”.  All 1st Mariner employees are required to attend “Red Carpet” training and are given assignments throughout the year to keep the material fresh in mind.

"Mariner Minute to Win It!"

The 1st Mariner Bank Training and Employee Development department works at finding unique and entertaining ways to keep employees informed, motivated and energized for work every day. As the old adage says “if Momma’s not happy (our employees), nobody is happy (our customers)” and this is true in the business world too.  This year the Training and Employee Development division celebrated Customer Service Week to say thanks to our branches and contact center staff for the invaluable job they do every day.  The first week in October, National Customer Service Week, is summed up with the tagline “Refresh, Recharge, Reconnect.”  Each day during this week a representative from each 1st Mariner branch played various games, which encouraged teamwork as well as taught customer service lessons.  Some of the games were customer service bingo, a scavenger hunt, and ring toss.  In addition to these daily games, there was a “Customer Service Street Crew” who visited each branch to play “Mariner Minute to Win It,” our version of the popular TV game show.   Throughout the week the branches were revitalized and really enjoyed coming to work, not only to play, but also to share this experience with our customers.

As the results of our recent Online Customer Survey demonstrate, 1st Mariner's customer service is the number one thing that sets us a part from other financial institutions. Having a team of leaders who share the overall goals in providing excellent service and care to our customers is the first step in achieving outstanding customer service.   As a whole, the staff at 1st Mariner Bank will continue to constantly work to be the best local bank and the best in customer service; after all, we built this bank for you.

Check out some of the photos and videos that were taken of our Mariners as they competed in the "Mariner Minute to Win It" challenge.  Additional videos and photos can be found on our Facebook and YouTube pages.

Mentoring Baltimore's rising entrepreneurs one student a time.

by Kevin Lynch 6. October 2011

NFTE & 1st Mariner BankWith the start of the school year, the folks over at the  Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) start their engines as well. NFTE's mission" is to provide programs that inspire young people from low-income communities to stay in school,  recognize business opportunities and to plan for successful futures." I, along with several other colleagues at the bank, have been involved in the program at various Baltimore City schools for the last four years. As Baltimore's community bank,  we work with the teachers as they incorporate the NFTE curriculum into their lesson plans. We go into the classroom on a weekly basis and work with these young entrepreneurs to help them identify business ideas, develop their business plan, and get their businesses started.

These rising young entrepreneurs in waiting then compete in local business plan competitions, first in their classroom and then against other students in a city-wide competition. At these events, they present their business plans to panels of judges for cash prizes. For those who win their local competition, there are even opportunities to compete with other young entrepreneurs from around the country. A couple of the young entrepreneurs we worked with at Patterson High School were even featured in a movie, "Ten9Eight" about a national business plan competition in New York. We've stayed in touch with one of these students who is now a sophomore pursuing a business degree at the University of Baltimore.

NFTE is a terrific organization that can really make a difference in our community. Teaching our young people financial literacy and business insight  is extremely important to the Baltimore Community and we at 1st Mariner Bank are proud to be involved in such a meaningful organization.  If you are looking for an opportunity to work with the youth in the city, there are plenty of ways to get involved. Visit the NFTE-Baltimore website to find out more.

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