Donald Fry: Baltimore region endures recession losses, but drives state’s modest jobs comeback

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By Donald C. Fry

The Baltimore region absorbed a large share of the state’s job losses caused by the recession, but has driven the state’s job rebound since, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled for an upcoming “State of the Region” report.

The report, which will be published in December by the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, compiles more than 90 key economic, business climate and quality of life indicators for the Baltimore region and 19 other competing regions in the U.S.

Job losses in the Baltimore region – Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties -- accounted for approximately two-thirds of the more than 145,000 jobs lost in the state between February 2008, when employment peaked, and February 2010 when employment declines hit bottom for both the region and the state, according to federal jobs data.

However, job gains in the Baltimore region account for most, if not all, of the more than 40,000 increase in jobs the state has experienced since then, according to federal data.

In the Baltimore region, only two of six major industry sectors experienced job growth between 2008 and 2010. Employment in the education and health services sector grew by 2 percent and government employment grew by 1.4 percent.

Conversely, jobs in the rest of the Baltimore region’s sectors decreased during that period at rates ranging from 2.4 percent to 3.7 percent, according to data compiled by State of the Region researchers.

As dramatic as the recession-induced job losses in the Baltimore region were, the region’s overall 1.6 percent employment contraction between 2008 and 2010 was relatively modest, compared to many competing regions. As a result, despite its job losses, the Baltimore region’s employment rankings moved up in five of the six major employment categories among the 20 competing in the State of the Region study.

The BRAC-related movement of several military installations into Maryland from bases outside the region “has helped cushion the effects of the economic downturn” in the region and state, observed Dr. Daraius Irani, director of Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute, who conducted the analysis for the report.

“As the nation begins the arduous task of recovery, the Greater Baltimore region finds itself at a crossroads,” Irani reports. “The region’s modest annual contraction in employment reflects its dependency on the government sector.”

Looking ahead, the region “will need to carefully consider its approach to its economic future,” notes Irani. The region could continue to rely on federal government growth to drive its economy or “it could follow new initiatives” to break our economic dependency on a government-driven economy, he adds.

Whichever direction our future economy takes, federal data confirms that the Baltimore region generates half of all jobs in Maryland and remains the state’s primary economic engine. That means that it’s especially important for local and state lawmakers in Baltimore City and in its five surrounding counties to pay close attention to the issue of business climate.

Employment data documents that a jobs rebound in the region and state that was sluggish at best in 2010, has slowed significantly so far in 2011.

More than 96,000 jobs – including 45,000 more in the Baltimore region – still need to be generated statewide just to get back to pre-recession employment levels.

In Annapolis and in county seats in the Baltimore region, and throughout the state for that matter, it remains critical that job creation continue to be the top public policy priority.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland.

Recent Center Maryland columns by Donald C. Fry:

State web site seeks business feedback on regulations

Job-creation impact of transportation gets lawmakers’ attention

Sluggish growth forecast for Maryland not a recession, but is it ‘okay?’

Mobility: the ultimate jobs issue

Tech jobs are here, more are coming, but can we fill them?

Breaking free of transportation funding limbo in D.C. and Annapolis

The Grand Prix’s lessons

Maryland jobs data show July gains, sobering long-term reality

Quake serves as reminder about transportation

Maryland funding for DBED lags behind competing states

Opportunity for Baltimore looms from Panama
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Donald C. Fry has been the president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), the central Maryland region's most prominent organization of business and civic leaders, since November 2002.

Under Don’s leadership, the GBC is recognized as a knowledgeable and highly credible business voice in the Baltimore region, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. on policy issues and competitive challenges facing Maryland. Its mission is to apply private-sector leadership to strengthening the business climate and quality of life in the region and state.

Fry served as GBC executive vice president from 1999 to 2002. From 1980 to 1999 Fry was engaged in a private law practice in Harford County. During this time he also served in the Maryland General Assembly. He is one of only a handful of legislators to have served on each of the major budget committees of the General Assembly.

Serving in the Senate of Maryland from 1997 to 1998, Fry was a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee. As a member of the House of Delegates from 1991 to 1997 Fry served on the Ways and Means Committee and on the Appropriations Committee.

Fry is a 1979 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law. He earned a B.S. in political science from Frostburg State College.