Maryland’s economy added 13,100 jobs in March and the state’s unemployment rate remained at 6.2%, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning.
Maryland added 1,200 jobs in February. The national unemployment rate is at 6%.
The state’s business leaders said the latest jobs numbers seem to indicate that although significant challenges lie ahead, Maryland’s economy is slowly recovering from the pandemic lockdowns that were in full force just one year ago.
“Recovering our economy from COVID is all about celebrating every little victory,” Frederick County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon told MarylandReporter.com. “Adding 13K jobs statewide in March is definitely a victory worth celebrating. Our Chamber has seen double-digit increases in new members over the last few months, and that certainly wasn’t the case over the last year. So the trends are all pointing in the right direction, but vigilance is the name of the game.”
“I believe that Maryland continues to head in a positive direction,” Howard County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Leonardo McClarty said. “I believe vaccine distribution is aiding business and consumer confidence. If there is danger ahead, it will be in the restaurant and hospitality industry where the inability to attract and hire workers may slow the recovery of those industries specifically.”
“The addition of over 13,000 jobs in March is good news,” Washington County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Frey said. “With that said, our service industry businesses, including hotels and restaurants, still have many positions available. Consumers are out and about in force, now, so sales are coming back for the service industry businesses.
These businesses need the labor force to help take care of their respective customers. However, many of these previously laid-off workers are collecting unemployment benefits that are equal to or more of what they were making prior to being laid off. So, while Maryland’s economy is indeed on the road to recovery, the danger is that customers want to spend money and they aren’t always able to be given the level of service they expect. This includes customer service at many retail operations, as well. The businesses able to recruit and retain employees will have a clear advantage in today’s post-COVID environment.”
Frey added: “Consumers have and want to spend money now. If businesses can’t figure out how to take the money when it is being spent by consumers, they will quickly move on to someone who will. If unable to attract and retain employees to run the business in the way they would normally do so, prior to COVID, businesses will need to get creative to serve their customers in a manner that will satisfy them. This may include curbside pick-up, online ordering, and perhaps hiring an employee to interact with customers remotely, working from home.”
Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklair linked the recent increase in vaccinations to the recent economic upswing.
“Almost 2.5 million Marylanders out of 6 million have received at least their first dose of the Covid immunization. As that number increases, we can absolutely expect to see a continuation of Marylanders getting back to work as people feel safer and start going out more. This is of course, contingent on the supply chain of Covid immunizations.
I would add however, business continue to struggle with debt and their customers returning to normal levels (some of which is due to social distancing restrictions). With added costs such as the unemployment insurance increases that are up well over 500 percent for businesses for the rest of the year, there are still significant challenges ahead.”
There are 433,359 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Friday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 8,342 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 5.67%, which is above CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted almost 9.3 million COVID-19 tests.
Maryland’s health care providers have administered 3,756,692 doses of the coronavirus vaccine. That includes 2,221,581 (36.747%) first doses and 1,356,081 (22.431%) second doses. More than 1.5 million people in Maryland are fully vaccinated, which is about 25% of the state’s total population.