Maryland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christine Ross said the numbers in the federal government’s latest jobs report are cause for concern because they call into question the extent to which the nation’s economy has recovered from months of coronavirus lockdowns.
“The slowdown in job growth between June and July is concerning because it indicates that our economic recovery has plateaued or, worse, is faltering,” Ross told MarylandReporter.com in an email on Friday.
Ross added: “This is tied directly to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases across the country, as well as Congress’ inability to reach a deal on the 4th stimulus package. Maryland’s small businesses continue to struggle on a number of fronts, and state and federal action is needed to assist with their ongoing financial needs.”
The report was released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Friday morning. It said that in July 1.8 million jobs were added to the economy and that the unemployment rate dropped from 11.1% to 10.2%. The economy grew by 4.8 million jobs in June, according to the department.
Maryland added 68,300 jobs in June and the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.9% to 8%. Maryland’s July jobs numbers will be released on Aug. 21, according to a spokesperson from the state’s Department of Labor.
Frederick County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon attributed June’s substantial job growth in his part of the state to Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to fully implement Stage 2 of the state’s recovery plan.
“In Frederick County, the June increase in employment seemed to correlate to the reopening phase of the Roadmap to Recovery. The full move into the second phase allowed a number of employers the opportunity to bring folks back.”
But Weldon said job growth appeared to have stalled after Stage 2 was completed.
“Once that initial wave came through, things seemed to have slowed. It’s likely we’d see another pop when we reach the implementation of the third phase of reopening, but there’s been no indication of when that might actually occur.”
Restaurant Association of Maryland President and CEO Marshall Weston said he is not surprised that the state’s hospitality industry saw an increase in jobs in July due to loosening restrictions.
“Its no surprise that the restaurant industry has added jobs for the month of July due to the fact that certainly here in Maryland restaurants were allowed to reopen for indoor dining in late-June. So, the hospitality industry has slowly been ramping back up since mid-June and we are hopeful that trend continues through August and moving forward. ”
But Marshall said restaurants have a long way to go before they return to pre-pandemic patronage levels.
“We are hopeful that the numbers continue to climb. However, we have to be cautiously optimistic because the restaurant industry has not seen a return to dining out anywhere near the pre-COVID levels. So, we may be stalled in a holding pattern for awhile until people begin to dine out as regularly as they used to.”
Marshall said he disagrees with a decision by Baltimore City officials to limit indoor dining to 25% capacity when that service is allowed to resume tonight at 5 p.m. following a two-week pause. Under state guidelines indoor dining is permitted at up to 50% capacity.
“We would certainly like to see the city of Baltimore be in-line with the rest of the state in terms of their restrictions. However, with Baltimore City only opening for 25% capacity-that’s really not enough to make a dent and to warrant a spike. So we are hopeful that they can trend upward.”
Marshall pointed to data that showed that Maryland’s restaurants lost $915 million in April, $1.2 billion in May, and $700 million in June. Data for July is not yet available.
There are 93,806 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Friday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 3,429 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 3.90%, which is both a historic low for Maryland and drastically better than that of most states in the country. Nearly 1.4 million people in Maryland have been tested for COVID-19.