Eye on the Economy: Maryland and the Regional Economy in February 2017

The Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson University is the source for the latest data and analysis on Maryland’s economy. Each month, RESI Chief Economist Dr. Daraius Irani provides an analysis of the latest Maryland unemployment numbers. His analysis ensures business leaders have key information needed to determine how Maryland’s economic status impacts their organization. RESI on the Economy is your source for the latest data and analysis of Maryland’s economy and employment numbers.


On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its preliminary February 2017 employment numbers for Maryland and other states in the Mid-Atlantic Region (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Washington DC). Maryland’s unemployment rate remained at 4.2 percent, the same rate since August 2016. This is lower than the unemployment rate for the Mid-Atlantic Region which decreased slightly from 4.6 percent in January to 4.5 percent. In February, Maryland added 11,500 jobs, a gain of 0.4 percent. Although modest, Maryland’s employment grew more than any other state in the region. Maryland’s employment gains were primarily due to an increase of roughly 9,400 private sector jobs.

Maryland Leading the Way

Maryland’s growth in February was led primarily by two supersectors: Education and Health Services and Professional and Business Services which added 6,300 and 5,900 jobs to Maryland’s economy respectively. Although Education and Health Services experienced the largest increase of all supersectors across the Mid-Atlantic Region, the region as a whole actually lost jobs in the Professional and Business Services supersector. The map below shows the percentage change in employment by state for the supersector for February.

As the map above shows, employment in Professional and Business Services only increased in Maryland and Washington DC, although employment barely declined in Virginia last month. However, Pennsylvania lost 6,100 jobs and Delaware lost 2,000 jobs in the industry, dragging down the regional average. Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia benefit from the number of federal agencies in the area, and this federal contracting helps keep employment stable. This is not to discount the role state and local governments play in supporting contractors.

In fact, Maryland and Virginia were the only two states in the region to experience employment growth in state and local governments. Federal Government employment fell in every state, although Maryland only lost 100 Federal Government jobs. As a hiring freeze continues in Washington, and many agencies face the risk of large budget cuts, employment in the Federal Government will likely continue to decline. However, past hiring freezes have often led to increases in federal contracting. RESI will be keeping an eye on employment numbers in the region to understand how the current administration’s policies are impacting employment in the region.

Still Signs of Winter Frost

However, not every sector in Maryland grew or remained steady in February. Maryland lost 2,600 jobs in the Leisure and Hospitality sector, the largest decline of any industry in the state. Maryland was the only state in the region to shed jobs in this industry; employment in Leisure and Hospitality grew by an average of 0.9 percent in all other states in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Maryland also lost 2,400 jobs in the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities supersector, a decline of 0.5 percent. Overall, Maryland’s economy was exceptionally strong in February, and hopefully this trend continues into March.

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Daraius Irani, Ph.D. serves as vice president of Innovation and Applied Research. He fosters the development of partnerships between business, government, and education that contributes to the economic vitality of our region. He also serves as chief economist at the Regional Economic Studies Institute and is often called on by state agencies, private companies, and local governments to provide insight on proposed policies, development, and economic forecasting. With a passion for all things economic, Daraius's posts focus on a wide range of topics from immigration to bicycling.