Maryland’s economy added 3,200 private sector jobs in February and the state’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.4% to 6.2%, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning.
The net gain in private sector jobs was offset by a net loss in public sector jobs, which means overall the state lost 700 jobs in February. Nevertheless, February’s jobs numbers mean that Maryland’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level since the beginning of coronavirus pandemic. The number does not include those who are no longer eligible for unemployment and are still unemployed.
Maryland added 6,800 jobs in January. The national unemployment rate is at 6.2%.
“Any realized public sector job losses are likely temporary, but the increase in private sector employment is a cause for optimism,” Frederick County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon told MarylandReporter.com.
Weldon added: “In Frederick County, we’ve seen some new businesses open, even in the more stressed fields like hospitality and food service. As the access to vaccines increases, I anticipate that we’ll see continued improvements in the employment numbers.”
Weldon relayed that earlier this week he and other local business leaders accompanied Rep. David Trone (D-6) on a tour of businesses in downtown Frederick and that many of the business owners they spoke with said that economic conditions have recently improved.
“We stopped and spoke with a few retail and restaurants, and all of them indicated that the numbers (both visits and sales) have rebounded significantly in the last month or two.”
Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel), who is a small business owner, emphasized that growth in the private sector is far more important than growth in the public sector.
“That’s a positive that we are adding jobs in the private sector. Because without the private sector the public sector cannot exist. Because we cannot just keep printing money.”
Chisholm relayed that many of his fellow small business owners have told him that they are having trouble retaining their employees due to enhanced unemployment insurance benefits.
“They are having trouble getting people to come back to work even when they are in need of talented and skilled labor. And a lot of people haven’t wanted to come back because the unemployment insurance is still paying them. And they don’t want to give that up until it runs out.”
Chisholm said that while Maryland’s economy is steadily improving difficult times may still lie ahead.
“We are not out of the woods yet. I pray that we are. I hope we keep moving forward. But I think that there are still some bumps in the road.”
Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), who sits on the Budget and Taxation Committee, echoed similar sentiments.
“These are different times that we are in, in reference to the health pandemic. I think that the economy is going to move in the right direction. But there are still certain sectors such as hospitality that are still hurting and we need to be mindful of that.”
There are 405,343 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Friday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 8,047 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 4.64%, which is within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted more than 8.6 million COVID-19 tests.
Maryland’s health care providers have administered 2,422,963 doses of the coronavirus vaccine. That includes 1,568,466 (25.944%) first doses and 791,320 (13.089%) second doses. More than 854,000 Marylanders have been fully vaccinated, which is about 14% of the state’s total population.