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Manufacturing, housing, defense lifting some areas of Maryland, sinking others

Just look at the stock market over the last few weeks, jobless figures, unemployment insurance claims or really any metric you can think of and you won’t need much, if any, convincing the post-recession recovery has been anything but smooth sailing.

The state adds jobs one month and loses them the next. Big stock market gains are erased the next day. Governments in Europe and the United States seem to be taking turns doling out dire economic news.

The unevenness, doesn’t come just over days, weeks, months and years. It’s geographical, too. And that’s what you’ll find in the story today about Western Maryland, the first piece of The Daily Record’s “Help Wanted” series.

In Western Maryland, job losses in manufacturing and logistics have slowed the recovery. Washington County, with less than 3 percent of the state’s population, has accounted for 15 percent of the manufacturing jobs the state has lost since 2006. In raw numbers, that’s 3,500 jobs lost in Washington, a county of 147,000.

Fewer goods made means fewer goods shipped, which means logistics companies are cutting back their fleets and charging less to make the same hauls.

You can get a little taste of what some Western Marylanders told us here.

On Monday, “Help Wanted” will go to the Eastern Shore. There, agriculture and the housing market are struggling and tourism, while up over 2010, still hasn’t rebounded fully. You’ll find the highest unemployment rates in the state out on the Shore. My favorite statistic from the Shore story comes from Worcester County. There were 446 permits filed in 2004 to build single family homes, but just 60 last year.

Tuesday is Southern Maryland day. This region is the outlier, with unemployment rates in Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties all below 6 percent. The state’s rate is above 7 percent.

Defense spending is the big story there. Military installations like Pax River and Indian Head (as well as those across the river in Virginia) have brought relatively stable, high-paying jobs to Southern Maryland. Housing developments and retail corridors have popped up around places like Waldorf and La Plata.

But, like the state as a whole, there is a fear of federal cutbacks being discussed in Washington, D.C. Economists have been clamoring for the state to come up with a Plan B for some time, and Southern Maryland could be one of the first regions that would need to put such a thing into effect in the event of big government cuts.

If they have a Plan B, that is.