Maryland continued its downward slide in jobs last month, losing a net 7,500 positions, according to federal figures released Friday.
The loss follows declines of 5,400 jobs in April and 600 in March. Before that, the state posted six months of gains.
While state officials noted that Maryland is still up by about 36,000 jobs in the past year, the national economy has continued to grow jobs in the last few months, while Maryland has lost thousands. In fact, the nation has a 20-month string of job gains.
“Maryland’s economy is starting to significantly underperform the national economy,” Anirban Basu, chairman and CEO of Baltimore economic and policy consulting firm Sage Policy Group, said Friday. “That is in part due to its poor business reputation and in part due to reduced federal government outlays.”
Political leaders must do more to help make the state more attractive for private investment, but instead the legislature raised income taxes in its recent special session, Basu said.
“Much of this year’s regular legislative session focused on raising taxes, and the special session was all about raising taxes,” Basu said. “Discussions about raising taxes do not breed business confidence.”
State political leaders have said they had approved millions of dollars in budget cuts and turned to raising taxes on high-income earners as a way to balance the budget. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) noted Friday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Maryland first nationally for entrepreneurship and innovation and fifth for overall economic performance in a new report. He called on members of Congress to support federal legislation such as the American Jobs Act.
Job fluctuations are not atypical, Scott R. Jensen, the state’s interim labor secretary, said in a statement.
“We saw it happen last year and in years before, and we’ve always recovered over the year,” Jensen said. “So far this year, the number of jobs is higher than a year ago, with private-sector employers adding 34,900 jobs to their payrolls.”
Maryland’s unemployment rate ticked up last month to 6.8 percent from 6.7 percent in April but was still down from 7.1 percent a year earlier. The national rate was 8.2 percent in May.
Maryland had the nation’s third-largest monthly jobs loss in May, with only North Carolina and Pennsylvania losing more at 16,500 and 9,900, respectively.
Losses last month were particularly seen in construction with a drop of 4,600 and administrative and support services with a decline of 2,600. Most losses were in the private sector; government was responsible for only 1,300 lost jobs.
Among those recently filing layoff notices with the state was RG Steel, which is idling as many as 2,000 employees at its Baltimore-area Sparrows Point steel mill starting this month.
Private education was one of the few industries with gains, increasing by 2,000 in May.