Maryland’s economy gained 6,800 jobs in January and the state’s unemployment rate decreased to 6.4%, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics on Monday morning.
January’s job numbers mean that Maryland’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The state’s February jobs report is scheduled to be released on March 26. The data, however, does not include the number of people who stopped looking for work after their unemployment benefits ended.
Maryland added 4,600 jobs in December. The national unemployment rate is at 6.2%.
“Like everything else related to the COVID pandemic, we need to rally around any good news. Having our state and local unemployment rates dropping is welcomed good news,” Frederick County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon told MarylandReporter.com. “The sectors doing the best, according to the report, include administrative and scientific positions, and are probably an indicator of our connection to federal payrolls and support services contracts.”
However, Weldon noted that the state’s dining and hospitality sectors are still struggling.
“We’re still concerned about the lagging employment statistics in the hospitality, food services and tourism/leisure sectors. When those numbers consistently start to improve, we’ll know that we’re really emerging from the pandemic’s economic impact.”
Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) echoed similar sentiments, saying that the pandemic has hit those who work in lower paying professions the hardest.
“I am concerned about main street and these small businesses that may not ever recover. And when you have that you have a ripple effect…I hope we have a quick recovery. I just have major concerns for the most at-risk employees that are out there. And those are the ones that have really felt the brunt of this from the beginning. And they are still feeling it.”
Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), who sits on the Budget and Taxation Committee, attributed the improved jobs numbers to the $6.4 billion Maryland is expected to receive from the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package that President Joe Biden signed into law last week.
“I think that companies and people feel very confident in reference to the Biden-Harris stimulus package. I think that confidence has probably reached down into our respective companies to know that $600-plus million is coming to the city of Baltimore and north of $3 billion is being injected into the state of Maryland’s economy. And that is going to be good for both Maryland and the city.”
McCray was asked if he believes Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and retail establishments-which was announced six days before the release of the jobs report and went into effect on Friday evening-had any effect on the numbers.
“I think we have to mindful that while the vaccination process is happening and every day more people are being vaccinated that we have to make sure that there is no uptick-especially with the other versions of COVID-19 that are out there. I think we need to move at somewhat of a moderate level. But I think that we are going to be moving in the right direction the more that vaccines get to people.”
There are 394,058 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Monday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 7,873 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 3.85%, which is within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted more than 8.3 million COVID-19 tests.
Maryland’s health care providers have administered 1,903,878 doses of the coronavirus vaccine. That includes 1,206,078 first doses (19.949%) and 647,759 (10.714%) second doses. Nearly 700,000 people in Maryland have been fully vaccinated, which is about 12% of the state’s total population.