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Maryland unemployment rate rises despite job growth

With seven straight months of positive job growth, Maryland has become a destination for residents of other states with more devastating unemployment rates, the local director for a temporary employment agency says.

That would help explain why the state’s unemployment rate rose to 6.6 percent in March, even though the economy added 1,500 jobs. The number of people entering the workforce exceeded job gains.

Dawn Sloan, the Maryland area director for Adecco, said Friday that the mostly positive Maryland state jobs data has caused workers from other states to relocate.

“In the last year or two, we’re seeing more and more candidates coming to us who … can’t find work in other parts of the country,” Sloan said. “Predominantly [it’s still] local talent, but it’s something that I’ve noticed and heard more discussion about recently than in years past.”

Sloan said usually people would not be willing to relocate to seek temporary work, but “that’s definitely become more prevalent.”

Workers hired who are not Maryland residents are not included in calculations made by the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

But their presence is creating more competition for the increasing number of Marylanders who are resuming their once-thought-hopeless job hunts.

Alexander M. Sanchez, the state labor secretary, said Friday that although the unemployment rate went up, March was still “a very solid jobs report,” he said.

“As we’ve seen by the jobs report, this is not because people lost jobs, it’s because more Marylanders have returned and tried to enter the workforce,” Sanchez said. “Last month certainly didn’t break the streak of job growth. We’ve said for a year now there’s going to be ups and downs.

“I certainly wouldn’t describe it as a turning point. I don’t think it changes the overall positive trend line.”

Job growth again came in the private sector, where 4,200 jobs were added. The transportation, warehousing and utilities sector added 2,700 jobs, the professional and business services sector added 3,400 jobs and the leisure and hospitality industry saw 3,000 new jobs.

The department also revised its February jobs report, now saying that the state added 9,600 jobs in the month instead of 8,000.

Maryland has added 49,600 jobs to the economy in the last year, 96 percent of which have come in the private sector.

Sloan said workers are getting more picky when looking for jobs because their confidence level has increased.

“The amount of applicants that are coming our way has stayed pretty steady,” Sloan said. “It’s a constant flow. The good news is, for the most part, we’re not hearing as much of ‘I’ve been out of work for months.’”

The state unemployment rate is 1.6 percentage points better than the national rate of 8.2 percent. Maryland has added more jobs than all but seven states.

In a statement, Gov. Martin O’Malley indicated he was pleased with the jobs report.

“This is a sign that we are moving in the right direction,” O’Malley said. “But there is still more work to do. The most important job we create is the next one.”

O’Malley then made a thinly-veiled reference to the “doomsday” budget enacted by the General Assembly, which includes some $500 million in cuts, including a business investment tax credit and steep reductions in education funding.

“We must come together to protect our commitment to job creation, education, and innovation to move our state forward,” O’Malley said. “We cannot afford to take steps back. Progress is a choice we must make now to provide a better future for our children.”