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11.22.21 – Southern Maryland Chronicle

Maryland’s economy gained 14,900 jobs in October and the state’s unemployment rate decreased from 5.9% to 5.7%, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning.

The latest numbers mean that the state’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic more than 20 months ago.

Maryland gained 1,200 jobs in September. The national unemployment rate is 4.6%.

“The numbers are concerning and we always want to perform better than the national average,” Howard County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Leonardo McClarty told MarylandReporter.com.

“I believe this speaks to the overall labor and workforce issues facing employers at the moment. Inflation is impacting business but businesses were having issues filling open positions prior to the past couple of months. Thus, inflation is affecting business but it is independent of their hiring challenges,” McClarty added.

Washington County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Frey echoed similar sentiments.

“The higher unemployment rate in Maryland, versus the national rate, is concerning. Maryland lost a significant number of restaurant and hotel jobs at the beginning of the pandemic, and likely that is still negatively impacting Maryland’s current unemployment rate.

“If there is any silver lining to the increase in the inflation rate, it’s that it will begin to force those people currently not working, but able to work, to get back into the job market to pay for the increased cost of food, gasoline, heating oil, and toys for Christmas.”

But Frey said there may be some industries that may not benefit from an increase in available workers.

“Unfortunately for the hospitality industry, they may not be the beneficiaries of the new influx of workers as the competing pay for other industries, like warehouse and distribution, is significantly higher. Restaurants, in particular, can only charge so much for their menu items, and still retain their respective customer bases.”

Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklair said businesses are likely to face serious challenges in the near-term future.

“We are very concerned, and more startling is the fact that in 42 states including Maryland, there are more jobs than jobless people. With that type of job availability employees have more bargaining power than ever. Businesses are experiencing inflation the same way people are and the fact is it is going to get worse. The combination of high consumer demand, shipping congestion, workforce shortages, and higher costs is challenging everyone, but the longer jobs go infilled, the worse this gets.”There are 575,996 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Friday morning, according to the Department of Health, and 10,869 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is 3.43%, which falls within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted more than 14.7 million COVID-19 tests.

About 88% of the state’s residents are partially vaccinated, according to the Department, and about 62% are fully vaccinated.

Nationally, about 73% of the population is partially vaccinated, according to the CDC, and 59% are fully vaccinated.

Federal regulators approved COVID-19 booster shots for all adults age 18 and up on Friday morning.

Gov. Larry Hogan responded to the news saying Maryland will immediately make boosters available to the newly eligible population.

“As of today, Maryland has already administered more than 800,000 booster shots, and we are immediately expanding our campaign further to include all adults,” Hogan said in a statement. “As the holiday season approaches, with more travel and more gatherings, we are encouraging all Marylanders to get a booster shot and maintain their immunity. The state has a robust network of vaccination providers, and we continue to have both the supply and the capacity to provide a booster shot to anyone who needs one.”

This article was originally published on MarylandReporter.com on Monday, November 22, 2021.