Maryland gained 14,000 jobs in October, the state’s largest increase for that month since 1999 and among the biggest jumps nationally, according to federal labor department figures released Tuesday.
The unemployment rate also dropped, to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent in September.
The private sector led the way with 16,700 new jobs, as government jobs fell by 2,700 last month. The private gain came on the heels of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce recently releasing its legislative agenda for next year that calls for more emphasis on increasing competitiveness in the state to boost private-sector jobs.
The state is doing all it can to foster an environment in which businesses can thrive, state Labor Secretary Leonard Howie said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. State investments in workforce development initiatives are paying off, he said.
“Maryland’s economy is starting to strengthen,” Howie said. “We’re headed in the right direction.”
The private gains are encouraging, especially with the so-called federal “fiscal cliff” looming, said Daraius Irani, director of the Regional Economic Studies Institute’s applied economics and human services group at Towson University.
“You really want the private sector to be leading the charge,” he said.
Irani said he expects the federal budget issue to come to a resolution before the Jan. 2 deadline that would trigger substantial spending cuts and tax increases.
“Both parties have a lot to gain by resolving it,” he said.
Maryland’s job gain in September was revised only slightly, from 9,800 to 9,500, the federal labor agency reported.
A big gain last month was seen in professional, scientific and technical jobs, which increased by almost 5,000. That sector has been the top job creator in the state in the past year, boosting its totals by more than 6 percent.
Retailers added 3,300 positions, with many of those holiday seasonal hires. Hotels and restaurants gained 3,200 positions, and the construction sector was up by 2,300.
One of the few private-sector losses was in manufacturing with a drop of 2,400 jobs.
The Port of Baltimore, which directly supports some 15,000 jobs, is handling 10 percent more general cargo — which includes cars, forest products and container goods — in the first nine months this year over the same period in 2011.
The 14,000 net jobs added last month was more than in most states. Virginia and New Jersey even lost jobs in October.
Maryland’s percentage job boost in the past year of 1.3 percent was slightly behind the national average of 1.5 percent, but it was larger than most of its neighbors experienced. Virginia has seen a job gain of 1.0 percent in the past year, while Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey all saw increases of less than 1 percent. Delaware and West Virginia have even lost jobs in the past year.
Nevada continued to have the nation’s highest unemployment rate last month, at 11.5 percent. North Dakota had the lowest rate, 3.1 percent.