Layoffs in state resume disturbing trend

An identical article with photo is published at Normally I split the text but there was no good breaking point in this post.

While we haven’t returned to the mass layoffs of a decade ago, it appears the trend in Maryland is going back in the wrong direction according to statistics compiled by the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.

Federal law dictates states keep a running log of what they term Work Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN for short. So far in 2012 these job losses are approaching a three-year high with still a quarter to go. By way of comparison, I compiled through WARN statistics (which are available through the state back to calendar year 2000) the total number of jobs lost via these mass layoffs each year since:

  • 2000: 7,573
  • 2001: 10,041
  • 2002: 8,352
  • 2003: 11,123
  • 2004: 5,120
  • 2005: 7,445
  • 2006: 4,847
  • 2007: 4,586
  • 2008: 4,384
  • 2009: 6,170
  • 2010: 5,675
  • 2011: 5,611
  • 2012 (through September 13): 6,134

In short, we may suffer our worst such year in nearly a decade if the pace continues over the remainder of the year. Right now the two biggest layoffs – accounting for almost half this year’s total – are the Unilever plant in Hagerstown and the RG Steel plant at Sparrows Point.

Over the years, steelmaking and other manufacturing jobs have steadily left the state while retailers have contributed their share to the toll. Key losses over the years have come from US Airways, the shutdown of chain retailers like Montgomery Ward in 2001, Ames in 2002, and Super Fresh last year, WorldCom in 2002, Black & Decker and Bethlehem Steel in 2003, Baltimore’s GM plant in 2005, and Severstal in 2010. Sparrows Point in particular has been hard hit by losses.

And looming in the near-term are prospects of sequester-related job losses from Maryland-based companies, since we have 2.5 times the national 2.2% average of federal workers as a share of the overall workforce. It’s quite possible we could match or exceed the all-time record by year’s end, even if the layoffs are only temporary.

But the question isn’t so much why these layoffs and closures are happening, since this is common in an economy such as ours – after all, some of the worst years have come in periods where the overall economy was humming right along. The question is what can be done about it.

We have heard on many occasions that Maryland is a job creation pit – the group Change Maryland has picked up thousands of Facebook followers and made Larry Hogan a person in political demand simply by pointing this out. Unfortunately, we are saddled with our failed Annapolis leadership until 2014.

Thus it’s going to be up to localities to be smart about job creation, particularly ones which have been hardest hit by the exodus in jobs. Salisbury is no stranger to the WARN list; we lost a Super Fresh last year but many more recall the demise of Crown Cork and Seal, the Dresser plant, or United Stationers.

But we’ve also seen some job creation in these very locations: Crown is now an indoor sports facility, for example. Another instance of a shuttered facility getting new life is the old Reddy Ice plant, now home of Evolution Brewery. The brewers wanted the site because it has a well and access to clean, pure water – the better to make beer by. Both have found a niche in a market they can take advantage of despite the headwinds created by the state.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt to get the state out of the way. If, as some speculate, the economy suddenly blossoms once again because Mitt Romney wins the election and brings back a Republican-led Congress, we need to make sure Maryland gets in on the fun.

One thought on “Layoffs in state resume disturbing trend”

  1. Michael,

    One needs to consider the fact that he vast majority of elected politicians in this state have decided that “economic” growth will be a result of more tightly coupling our fortunes to the teat of the Federal Government, in what can only be described as entire bastardization of supply-side economics.

    The theory of people like Stormin’ Norman Conway, O’Guvnah, MIchael “Head for the Mountains” Busch, and Mike “Man Perm” Miller goes something like this: the good jobs will be good government jobs. Good unionized government jobs. And the other good jobs will be jobs working with good unionized government. And the money those people make will be spent to employ the rest in low-wage, small-growth retail jobs. Private industry be damned– the good paying jobs will be with or around government.

    They won’t get out of our way, because getting the only way to get their way, is to bar our way from working. Annapolis is the largest most unrestrained form of organized crime in this state. Tony Soprano couldn’t ask for a better model of racketeering than Maryland State Government.

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