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Rosy Economic Review Contradicts County Events

Updated: Mar 29, 2020


The Garrett County Republican reported a State of the County presentation at a Chamber of Commerce Business Before Hours event. The former Economic Development Director of 17 years, and now County Commissioner Jim Hinebaugh, presented a rosy picture of Garrett County's economic state in spite of recent events that would suggest otherwise. "Overall, the economy is very good right now," Hinebaugh said. “Unemployment is somewhere around 4 percent. I remember the days when the average unemployment for 1997 was 13 percent. In February and March in those years, it got up to 15 or 16 percent. So, from my perspective, 4 percent is pretty good.” According to the Maryland Department of Labor, as of December 2018, Garrett County sat at 4.8% unemployment, roughly one point lower than neighboring Allegany County and above the national unemployment rate of 3.9%. Greg Jericho of The Guardian reports that in the past, the unemployment rate was a pretty good measure of the health of the economy. The current rate of 3.9% for much of the past 30 years would have meant the economy was in quite robust health. But over the past decade, the increasing growth of part-time employment means that gauging the economy’s fitness requires much more than just taking the unemployment pulse rate. Jericho looks at the actual employment growth as a better indicator of what is going on in the economy. But even here one needs to look at what type of employment is growing – rather than just the big overall number. Are jobs generating a family living wage or are families working multiple jobs to make ends meet? Hours worked is in many ways the best measure of employment health, according to Jericho. Part-time employment can mean anything from one hour a week to 34 hours, and equally, full-time employment includes anything from 35 hours and above. Hours worked not only can show the shift from full-time to part-time it can also detect changes within each category. What Hinebaugh didn't address according to the Republican article was the recent closing of Luke paper mi