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Report shows slow and steady road to recovery for Md.

A hiring sign shows outside of restaurant in Prospect Heights, Ill., Sunday, March 21, 2021.  The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to 684,000, the fewest since the pandemic erupted a year ago and a sign the economy is improving.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

A new report finds that Maryland has fared better than much of the country in recovering from the pandemic-induced economic slowdown but still hasn’t recovered more than 100,000 lost jobs and is facing a diminished workforce participation rate. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Maryland is steadily recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic, having recovered over 200,000 of the 336,100 jobs lost in April 2020. But with the unemployment still at 6.0%, the state still has an upward climb ahead of it and is facing an unprecedented drop in workforce participation, according to a report released Thursday by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

The two industries that remain the hardest hit by the pandemic include leisure and hospitality, which was down 52,100 jobs in March 2021 as compared to March 2020, and education and health services, which was down 20,500. The region that suffered the most employment loss was the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson metropolitan statistical area, down 64,900 jobs.

Maryland’s unemployment rate is better than the national average, however. Although Maryland’s rate of 6.0% in March 2021 is still drastically higher than its rate of 3.9% the previous year, just before the pandemic’s onset, it was still slightly lower than the national rate of 6.2%.

The California-Lexington Park metropolitan statistical area, located in Southern Maryland, had the best unemployment rate in the state, at only 4.3%.

The state’s labor force participation rates, which describe what proportion of Marylanders over the age of 16 are either employed or looking for work, are also drastically down compared to pre-pandemic numbers, both for Maryland and across the nation. Only 65.1% of Maryland adults are participating in the labor force, a decline of 3.8% since the start of the pandemic.

Although Maryland still has a higher labor force participation rate than the country at large does, at 61.5%, the state’s rate declined more sharply than the U.S.’s, which dipped only 1.1%. According to the report, the labor force participation rate is lower than it has been since the 1970s, when women were entering the labor force in large numbers.

“Labor force participation rates for women have been particularly hard hit as many working women have chosen to stay with school-age children or grandchildren who are now attending classes online from home,” the report explained. “This is a trend that is likely to have long-term implications. For example, all-else-equal it will place downward pressure on the recovery — without a warm body to fill it, a vacancy remains a vacancy, it never becomes a job.”

On the other hand, wage increases have been one positive trend. Average private-sector hourly earnings in Maryland increased 6.7% from the previous year, significantly higher than both the 3.6% growth seen at the national level and the 3.4% growth the state had seen in March 2020.

Additionally, a small number of industries in Maryland outperformed the national norm in employment rates, suffering fewer losses than the industry did nationwide. Those industries were total government; manufacturing; mining and logging; transportation and warehousing; and professional and business services. In fact, the latter two industries gained, rather than lost, employment between March 2020 and March 2021, with transportation and warehousing increasing by 3.8% statewide and professional and business services increasing by 0.3%.

The remainder of Maryland’s 14 major industry sectors fared worse statewide than nationwide. Leisure and hospitality, for example, was down 20.2% in Maryland as compared to only 14.4% nationally.

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