Friday, October 09, 2009

Unemployment Explodes in Maryland’s Big Seven

Last week, we offered our readers a snapshot of current unemployment in each of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions, as well as some of its biggest cities. Today, we burrow deeper into historical unemployment data for the state’s Big Seven: Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. The results should send a shudder down the spine of every politician in those areas and beyond.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the monthly unemployment rate in every U.S. county as far back as January 1990. We obtained that information for each of the Big Seven, as well as the state as a whole. We then averaged the unemployment rates in each of the last three recessions as defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Nationally, the U.S. has had recessions from July 1990 to March 1991, March 2001 to November 2001 and December 2007 on. Below are the average unemployment rates in each of the Big Seven for the entire period, the 1990-1991 recession, the 2001 recession, the first 13 months of the current recession and the first six months of 2009.

As measured by the unemployment rate, the 1990-91 recession was significantly worse than the 2001 or 2007-2008 recessions in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Frederick Counties. As a matter of fact, for all of the Big Seven except Montgomery, the 2001 and 2007-2008 unemployment rates did not exceed their twenty-year averages. But the unemployment rates in the first six months of 2009 jumped dramatically for every one of them, as well as the state as a whole. This year will go down as the one of the worst ever in Maryland.

The sudden skyrocketing of unemployment has not had a substantial impact on the last state poll. But the ugly economy has no doubt been a factor in the Tea Parties, the health care town halls and reaction to scandals like Delegate Jon Cardin’s ill-fated marriage proposal. The Republican Party is probably too weak to pick up more than a handful of seats in each chamber. But the economic cataclysm may have increased the danger to more than a few incumbents in volatile districts, including ones facing primary challenges.

Below are unemployment rate charts for each of the Big Seven from January 1990 through June 2009, as well as unemployment in the state as a whole.