The jobs forecast for 2011: cloudy with a chance of full-time positions, especially in technology and engineering.
That’s according to local business leaders and a recent jobs report by employment site Career Builder.com.
Maryland's unemployment rate began a steady ascent in June 2008, when the figure was 4.4 percent. In December 2009, the rate — not seasonally adjusted for annual occurrences like Christmas — was 7.1 percent. It fluctuated throughout the following year, ending once again at 7.1 percent in December 2010. That's compared to more than 9 percent nationally. Unemployment rates in most individual Maryland counties either remained the same or dropped.
“I think we’ve seen the worst of it, and we’re going to come out,” said Denise Rickell, manager of the Carroll County Business and Employment Resource Center. “It’s a slow process, but it’s moving forward at least.”
Moving forward it is, at least at the national level, according to Career Builder’s 2011 Job Forecast. After surveying more than 2,400 hiring managers and human resources professionals nationwide, the report found almost 25 percent of them plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2011 — up from 20 percent in 2010 and 14 percent in 2009. About 7 percent plan to decrease staff, compared to 9 percent in 2010 and 16 percent in 2009, while 58 percent expect no change and 11 percent are unsure.
Along with technology and engineering, top areas for recruitment include sales, information technology, customer service, business development and marketing.
The report also states that 13 percent of employers expect to hire part-time employees in 2011, up from 11 percent in 2010 and 9 percent in 2009.
In Maryland, county business leaders are cautiously optimistic.
“Employers are hiring,” Rickell said. “There’s no real big boom, but they are hiring.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between December 2009 and December 2010 unemployment in Baltimore County rose from 7.5 to 7.8 percent, while Carroll County dropped from 6.4 percent to 5.9 percent and Montgomery from 5.3 to 5.2 percent. In Prince George’s, the rate stayed at 7 percent. In Howard County, which consistently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state, the rate dropped from 5.2 percent to 5.1 percent.
“While we rejoice that we’re lowest in the state, it’s twice where we should be,” said Dick Story, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, adding the optimal rate is around 2.5 percent.
Still, there is talk among business and industry leaders of adding new positions–especially in government-related fields, he said.
During the authority’s Business Appreciation Week in May, leaders visited about 100 companies throughout Howard County. The majority planned to add jobs or stay the same in 2011, Story said. Only two companies planned to cut jobs.
One of this year’s biggest economic drivers is the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) initiative, a Department of Defense plan to restructure, relocate and streamline military bases, eventually saving the department billions of dollars. The initiative is bringing nearly 30,000 Department of Defense military and civilian jobs to Maryland.
Counties throughout Maryland benefit economically from BRAC, as well as government contracts and spending given their proximity to military bases like Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, said Edward Fangman, chief of workforce for Baltimore County’s Department of Economic Development.
At Fort Meade, 500 positions have already been moved on base, and by September, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said the number will grow to 5,800.
While Fort Meade and the National Security Agency are located outside Howard County, they pump about $2.5 billion annually into its economy, Story said. About $1.6 million of that total goes toward direct contracts with companies headquartered in the county. Another $300 million a year goes to small businesses.
In Baltimore County, companies like Middle River Aircraft Systems are among the aerospace manufacturing companies Fangman expects will hire in 2011.
In Carroll County, General Dynamics Robotic Systems is hiring, as well, Rickell said. The company provides tactical robotics systems for military, government and commercial clients.
Healthcare is another field poised for growth, especially hospitals and long-term care facilities, Fangman said. For example, Franklin Square Hospital Center in Eastern Baltimore County opened a new patient care tower in November, adding more than 100 nursing, critical care and emergency department jobs. In addition to expanding their buildings, hospitals throughout the region are expanding their services, drawing in even more jobs.
Home construction is still slow, but in counties like Montgomery and Howard, there is movement when it comes to commercial construction.
Howard has seen significant speculative construction of Class A, or top-quality, office spaces, Story said.
“That’s impressive,” he said. “It says private sector developers who don’t miss the mark often are confident that their investment will be rewarded.”
Montgomery County has seen a slight uptick in restaurant and hotel construction, said Steve Silverman, director of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development. Hiring in health care and biotech fields is also up, he said.
“I think more (companies) are going to hire,” Silverman said of 2011. “It’s just the hole is so deep it’s going to take years to dig out of it. ... It’s fair to say this is the ‘new normal’ for the next several years.”
For more information about the Career Builder 2011 Job Forecast, visit careerbuilder.com