BALTIMORE -- The wholesale distribution industry in the Baltimore-Washington market has shown significant growth over the last decade, a report released last week revealed.

The market's wholesale employment increased 51.3 percent and the number of wholesale establishments rose 34.8 percent, the Washington-Baltimore Regional Association study showed.

The national average showed an estimated 23.1 percent jump in employment and a 15.4 percent increase in wholesale establishments, the report said.

Association figures reveal the region accounted for more than $41.2 billion in total wholesale sales in 1987, including more than 7,450 wholesale establishments, which employ about 142,800 workers.

However, the study ranked the market fifth in retail sales and 10th in wholesale sales nationally.

In addition, the region's ratio of wholesale to retail sales, a key indicator of wholesale potential, is 1.23 to 1, compared to the national average of 1.87 to 1.

"This shortfall suggests an opportunity for the region to increase its wholesale distribution volume," said association Chairman P. Wesley Foster said.

Foster said the 52 percent increase in wholesale sales needed to match the national average would bring in an estimated $17 billion per year in additional wholesale sales for the region.