The conservative advocacy group Change Maryland charged Monday that “Maryland has lost more jobs so far this year than any other state in the nation according to the U.S. Department of Labor,” losing “just over 10,000 jobs since the beginning of this year.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s press office questioned the figures, and said the organization was cherry-picking numbers to fit in with its partisan Republican agenda. Change Maryland is headed by Annapolis land developer Larry Hogan, a once and possibly future Republican candidate for governor.

Both sides in the dispute were using figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but they chose a different starting point. O’Malley press secretary Raquel Guillory said that by starting with figures from the end of January to the end of June, Hogan disregarded large job gains in January.

Using the end of December as a starting point, Maryland had only lost 1,200 jobs this year, Guillory said.

Sensitive to charges from Hogan

There is no question that the O’Malley team is sensitive about its performance on job growth, and particularly sensitive about charges from Change Maryland. Hogan gained national attention earlier this month for a report that said Marylanders were leaving the state due to high taxes. He made the same claim related to job losses.

There was no dispute that a BLS report Friday showed Maryland had lost 11,000 jobs in the month of June, the third worst U.S. job loss, behind Wisconsin (down 13,200) and Tennessee (down 12,100).

O’Malley sought to put a positive spin on the numbers, noting improving home sales and lower unemployment and welfare claims.

“With all our economic indicators demonstrating positive trends, we would not be surprised if the Bureau of Labor Statistics once again significantly revises these preliminary numbers,” O’Malley said in an email. “Last month, they not only reported the loss of 1,500 state government jobs we knew not to be true, but also added back 4,600 jobs that their initial report claimed were lost.”

Comparing other states in the region

The administration did not dispute Hogan’s assertion that since 2007, when O’Malley took office, Maryland was down about 40,000 jobs, with only neighboring Pennsylvania with a worse job loss of 58,400. But they countered his claim that Maryland had “lost more jobs than any other state in the region except for Pennsylvania” by throwing in numbers for New Jersey, which is down 160,000 jobs.

(On a percentage basis, Delaware had the worst performance in the region, having lost 4.5% of its jobs.)

O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, has often sparred politically on TV and other venues with the Republican governors of New Jersey and Virginia, Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell.

“Governor O’Malley says repeatedly that Maryland has fared better than other states during the recession,” said Hogan.  “He should be talking about our state’s performance relative to others in this region, not compared to Michigan or Nevada.  Once again he is cherry-picking data in an attempt to fool people.”

Virginia is down 32,000 jobs since 2007, and its unemployment rate is now 5.7% compared to Maryland’s unemployment rate of 6.9%.

–Len Lazarick