February 01, 2014

Anne Arundel jobless rate hits 5-year low

Bob Houck used to be a “corporate type,” but he always wanted to be an entrepreneur. So when a McDonald’s franchise owner in Richmond, Va., gave him the idea to quit his job and open his own franchise 30 years ago in Riviera Beach, he jumped at the chance. In December, Houck opened his newest restaurant, hiring another 50 people in Pasadena. Those new jobs helped push Anne Arundel County’s unemployment rate to 5.1 percent in December, a five-year low, according to figures released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor and Licensing. There were 15,409 people listed as out of work in the final month of 2013, about 2,500 fewer than in January. The last time unemployment was lower in the county was in December 2008, when it hit 4.9 percent. One of the largest concentrations of new jobs last year was at Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, which hired about 1,400 workers as it added table games in April, a poker room in August and new restaurants and services. “Our total workforce is approximately 3,000 team members and we are still actively hiring,” said Howard Weinstein, senior vice president and general counsel for the casino. Job growth is also happening at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. Airmall, the company that controls concessions at the airport, said it tripled the number of jobs to 1,500 in 2012 and 2013. “The employment picture has improved dramatically at BWI since Airmall began developing concessions at BWI in 2004,” said Brett Kelly, vice president of Airmall Maryland. “Airmall continues to be a job creator and an economic engine — for both our airport partners and the region.” Other major job gains this year, according to a year-end review of new, expanding and relocating businesses released Tuesday by the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., included: • Lockheed Martin’s Cyber Center of Excellence in Annapolis Junction: 250 jobs. • Maggiano’s, a restaurant in Annapolis: 165 jobs. • Red Robin, a restaurant in Gambrills: 100 jobs. • First Student, a private school bus and charter company in Severn: 100 jobs. First Student, based in Cincinnati, opened in June, location manager Kevin Hardy said. The company started with 50 routes and now runs 57 for Baltimore public schools, specializing in special needs buses, Hardy said. Two people, a driver and a bus aide, run each vehicle. Hardy said First Student is hiring two more drivers and four more bus aides next week. It plans to operate on 12 routes in Anne Arundel County by the fall. “Everything’s going very well,” Hardy said. “We’re moving along just fine. We’ve grown.” Job growth is expected to continue in the first half of 2014 with the opening of a new Walmart on Jumpers Hole Road in Pasadena, which is expected to add 300 new positions. Statewide, unemployment dropped to 5.7 percent in December, down from 7.2 percent at the start of 2013, according to Labor and Licensing numbers released Tuesday. The improved jobs picture is another sign that the economy in Anne Arundel County could be bouncing back from the long recession that started at the end of 2007 and was followed by a slow, tepid recovery. Last month, figures released by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems showed that housing sales in 2013 represented the best year since 2006, with total sales topping $2.5 billion. The jobless rate rose and fell during 2013, changes driven in part by seasonal hiring. In January 2013, it was 6.2 percent, representing 19,009 out of work. The average was 6 percent, peaking in June when 21,165 people reported being out of work. December is usually a good month for finding a job because of hiring for holiday sales. In January last year, unemployment grew by 1,198 people as those jobs ended. The size of the county workforce grew last year, rising from an average of 305,158 in 2012 to 307,127, according to state figures. The improved jobless numbers, however, are still much higher than the norm enjoyed during the 1990s and up to the recession caused by the bust in housing prices. In January 2008, 8,509 were out of work and the jobless rate was 3 percent.
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