Howard County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Leonardo McClarty said the numbers in the federal government’s latest jobs report are both “favorable and encouraging” and that he expects Maryland’s economy to improve as the state enters the final stage of its coronavirus recovery plan.
“The jobs report is favorable and encouraging,” McClarty told MarylandReporter.com in an email on Friday. “I do expect things will get better in Maryland now that we have moved to phase 3. This move to the next phase is extremely important for restaurants and hospitality. It still remains to be seen how that impacts sales as many patrons are still hesitant to meet in large groups or patronize establishments where outside seating is unavailable.”
The report was released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Friday morning. It said that in August 1.4 million jobs were added to the economy and that the unemployment rate dropped from 10.2% to 8.4%. The economy grew by 1.8 million jobs in July, according to the department.
Maryland added 53,900 jobs in July and the state’s employment rate dropped from 8% to 7.6%. Maryland’s August jobs numbers will be released on September 18, according to a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Labor.
Maryland will enter Stage 3 tonight at 5 p.m. EDT. This will allow all of the state’s businesses to reopen. However, some jurisdictions, such as Baltimore City and Prince George’s County-have said they will wait before entering Stage 3.
National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) state chair Mike O’Halloran expressed tempered optimism over the numbers in the jobs report.
“Unfortunately the country is still in the red from April when BLS reported the loss of 20.8 million jobs at the onset of the pandemic. But the good news is the rate at which employers are adding jobs to the economy is anywhere from five to six times as many each month compared to the same time last year. So businesses are definitely showing signs of life. The concern is whether or not these are full-time, permanent jobs.”
O’Halloran said small business owners have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.
“Small business owners have faced distinct disadvantages since the beginning of this crisis compared to their larger counterparts – access to capital, finding qualified employees willing to come back to work, and other difficulties. It will definitely take longer for small businesses to feel the full effect of our economic recovery. The NFIB Research Center noted in a recent study that just 19% of owners anticipate conditions improving to normal levels by the end of the year. Over half (52%) think it will take until sometime in 2021 for things to improve.”
O’Halloran said he is “hopeful” that Maryland’s entrance into Stage 3 will boost the state’s economy.
Frederick County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon said he expects that the “unemployment numbers will continue to improve as the number of businesses allowed to reopen increases.” Weldon called Maryland’s entry into Stage 3 “great news,” however, he went on to say that “there’s a long way to go to get back to the low single-digit unemployment rate” that Frederick County had prior to the pandemic.
Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklair said her organization is “extremely disappointed some of the localities are not entering phase three.” Locklair said that she is “hearing massive backlash as businesses have been crushed” by coronavirus lockdowns.
There are 110,831 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Friday morning according to the state’s Department of Health, and 3,645 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 3.48%, which is better than that of most states in the country. Maryland has tested more than 2 million people for COVID-19.