More people are working in the Baltimore metro area than ever before, according to a recent economic study by PNC Bank.
Around 1.4 million people are employed in this area, the highest since before the recession, when 1.32 million people were employed.
“You more than recovered the jobs,” said PNC Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman about the region in an interview.
The bulk of those jobs are in construction and the service sector, specifically in health care, business and professional services.
Manufacturing jobs have had a modest year-over-year increase for the past seven months. Since the 1990s, the report noted, the only time the factory sector rose briefly in consecutive months was in 2011.
The region, which includes five neighboring counties as well as Baltimore City, is on track to create 25,000 jobs this year and an additional 20,000 jobs next year.
People are also paid better than the national average in this region, where a highly skilled workforce brings in an average household income of $71,000, which is $17,000 more than the national average.
“We think that’s going to go up next year,” said Hoffman, attributing that wage increases to companies with unfilled positions. The latest PNC Economic Outlook survey found that 34 percent of small business owners who responded to the survey nationally reported that it has become harder to find qualified workers than it was a year ago. One in 10 business that are not hiring said it’s because they cannot find the right skilled worker for the job, per the survey results.
But the wage increase will also apply to the region’s lower-skilled workers, as the state is poised to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by mid-2018. While that increase may lead to some job losses, those cuts will be offset by higher wages, the report said.
With housing, Baltimore is more on pace with the national average. Housing numbers are not at their pre-recession heights yet across the country, said Hoffman, and Baltimore’s market will increase at a modest pace.
April’s riots have yet to make a quantifiable impact on the economy. It could take years before the area takes a hit from the unrest, the report concluded.
“Social unrest can deter investors or in-migrants if they view the area as unsafe. Property values could also be adversely affected,” the report said.
Daraius Irani, chief economist at the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University, also sees the same forecast for Baltimore.
“Our overall growth for Maryland is less optimistic, given headwinds from fiscal austerity,” said Irani, pointing to hits from a potential federal government shutdown in December and weakening worldwide currencies that may hamper operations at the Port of Baltimore, particularly shipments from China and Europe.
Despite gains in workforce and wages, the PNC report said, Baltimore is by no means “a star performer.”
While Anirban Basu, CEO of Sage Policy Group, agreed that Baltimore is not an economic “star” like Seattle, San Jose or Boston, he believes the region deserves more credit.
“I reject the notion that Baltimore is going to underperform the national average,” he said.
Basu pointed to the growing cybersecurity industry in the southern part of the region, the popularity of BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, which reported record travel volumes this summer and growth in Towson and Owings Mills.
“I think people for too long have presumed that the Baltimore region would be a laggard,” he said.