About those October jobs numbers: Maryland vs. Virginia

(Pool/GETTY IMAGES) - BLADENSBURG, MD -- President Obama (C) talks to Brendan Quinn (L) the president of Ernest Mairer Block Company October 8, 2010.

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In not-so-modest terms, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) hailed the report as the state’s best monthly job gain in 15 years.

“Maryland’s dynamic private sector continues to prove that we are on the cutting edge of innovation,” the governor said in a statement.

O’Malley also used the rosy – and still preliminary -- figures to recalculate one of his favorite running statistics: Maryland, he said, has now “recovered nearly 85 percent of the jobs lost during the Bush recession.”

It’s a figure, and phrasing — assigning the job losses to former President George W. Bush – that O’Malley routinely used this year as a surrogate for Obama during his successful re-election bid. O’Malley also regularly brings up the number as a favorable comparison to Virginia, even though unemployment there remains significantly lower, at 5.7 percent.

So, how does O’Malley’s comparison compute?

In February 2010, the number of nonfarm jobs in Maryland sank to 2,472,500 -- down 144,700 jobs from the height of the state’s employment in February 2008.

With Tuesday’s numbers, Maryland appears to have recouped 122,500, or roughly 85 percent of the jobs it had the month after Obama was sworn in as president.

Virginia’s rebound follows a similar curve. Job losses totaled 186,100 by February 2010. The state has since regained 135,800.

As a percentage, that’s 73 percent for Virginia, to 85 percent for Maryland.

However, O’Malley’s stat doesn’t account for the fact that Maryland had further to go in the first place.

Maryland’s losses in the downturn totaled 5.5 percent of the job force, to Virginia’s 4.9 percent.

Maryland now has 2,595,00 jobs to Virginia’s 3,728,900. (Of course, Virginia’s population is larger: about 8.1 million, compared to Maryland’s 5.8 million, according to U.S. Census estimates.)

A deeper look at Tuesday’s numbers in Maryland also illustrates O’Malley’s potential weaknesses in national comparisons.

Manufacturing jobs in Maryland continue to drop, down 23,300 since the state’s peak employment in 2008, and down 29,000 since O’Malley took office in 2006.

The loss has been offset by an increase in government-sector jobs, up 23,600 since 2008, and an increase of 42,000 since 2006.

A similar flip has occurred in education-and-health jobs compared to mining-and-construction jobs.

Education and health sectors, which have been aided by significant increases in state spending under O’Malley, are up 42,700 since 2008. Mining and construction are down 37,200.

That stands in contrast to Pennsylvania and other neighboring states where mining jobs have increased as a result of allowing drilling in the Marcellus shale. Pennsylvania has gained 17,000 jobs in mining and logging, offsetting by more than a third some 44,000 jobs lost in construction.

O’Malley has said he wants to set the “gold-standard” in protecting the environment from ill effects from fracking. Under the administration’s current timeline, it would be highly unlikely any Marcellus drilling would begin in the state until after the end of O’Malley’s term in 2014.

 
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