Maryland added 29,800 jobs to its economy during May and the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 10.1 percent to 9.9 percent, according to a report released by the state’s Department of Labor on Friday morning.
The state lost 349,300 jobs in April.
The national unemployment rate is at 13.3 percent, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data contained in Maryland’s jobs report is compiled by the Bureau.
MarylandReporter.com asked the state’s business leaders to assess the report.
“Those are encouraging numbers and they are indicative of more small businesses being able to reopen after the governor’s shutdown,” Mike O’Halloran, state chair of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), said in a phone interview. “But make no mistake, significant hurdles remain for Maryland’s employers. They are dealing with a lot of red tape, limited occupancy, and local restrictions-all while still trying to regain their customer base that they lost when they had to shutdown.”
Frederick County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon said he is skeptical of the numbers in the report.
“I’m a little surprised by the job growth numbers and hope it’s real as opposed to an anomaly. I guess at this point I’m so used to the doom-and-gloom, it’s hard to accept more positive statistics at face value.”
Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Tolle said the numbers in the report are not surprising.
“I’m not sure there is anything striking going on here. As more businesses are allowed to open, employees will be hired back and we expect to see the unemployment rate drop. The question is where does the UE (unemployment) rate bottom out? We had record low unemployment prior to the pandemic and we know there are businesses that didn’t make it through all of this..
“Many previous projections put UE nationally at 19 percent when we are actually are now at around 13 percent. Maryland is faring better, but much of that has to do with how many government jobs we have in our state.”
MarylandReporter.com asked the business leaders if there is concern among small business owners that their employees will choose not to return to work now that many businesses in the state have reopened.
O’Halloran said the COVID-related expansion of unemployment benefits presents a major problem.
“You have the federal government adding $600 in unemployment insurance benefits on top of whatever somebody is already entitled to. We’ve heard from many small business owners, not just in the hospitality sector-but all sectors-that that is one of their biggest issues. That folks are staying home and not coming back to work because they can make more money at home not doing anything.”
O’Halloran also said that safety concerns are preeminent among the state’s small business owners.
“Not only do they (small business owners) have to let people know that their doors are open-they also have to let people know that they’re doing so safely,” he said. “That they’re welcoming back customers and employees in a safe environment. That they’re taking all the necessary precautions. And they’re battling the public concern that COVID is still out there.”
Weldon and Tolle both said they do not anticipate that employers will have trouble retaining their employees.
“At least in Frederick County, it seems that when employers are able to offer re-employment, their employees are responding affirmatively, he said. “With the next round of re-openings occurring this afternoon, I’m hopeful that this trend continues.”
“The majority of people are and have been ready to get back to work. The virus isn’t going anywhere and we understand now we have to learn to live with it,” she said.
Employee safety when returning to work has been a frequent topic of discussion on social media although companies like Atlas have said they have gone above and beyond to make sure its establishment is safe.
An industry source says some Atlas employees are quitting in light of what they call unsafe working conditions. pic.twitter.com/FjlpmuHBWy
— Christina Tkacik (@xtinatkacik) May 30, 2020
Tonight at 5 p.m. indoor recreational establishments such as gyms and dance studios are allowed to reopen all across Maryland. Last weekend restaurants were given permission to resume indoor dining at 50 percent capacity. Outdoor entertainment venues such as amusement parks also were given permission to reopen. Tonight Baltimore City is slated to become the last of the state’s 24 jurisdictions to enter Stage 2 of the state’s recovery plan.