Jobs report, obtained by GOP, predicted problems
*** Updated to reflect new details about how GOP obtained the report. See end of post.
"Maryland's Market Stalls During July" was the header on a jobs analysis posted to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation web site last month. The Maryland Republican Party seized on the pessimistically worded document to call Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley to task at a time when he was touting uninterrupted months of jobs growth.
But the analysis was quickly removed from the labor department's web site -- even before the Maryland GOP had a chance to take a screen shot of it. Yesterday, the party obtained a copy, resurrecting the issue just as a new jobs report shows that, indeed, July was a bad month for jobs. And August was even worse.
When it was taken down last month, the "missing report" was replaced by a more upbeat summary. The numbers in the two web documents were identical, Labor Secretary Alexander Sanchez told The Sun at the time. Only the accompanying rhetoric changed.
Sanchez said the original report, prepared by an agency data analyst, was "completely internal" and not meant for public consumption. It was replaced with the correct version, he said.
Republicans have a different take on why the report was removed.
"It’s now clear the government knew Maryland’s economy had faltered in July yet despite being caught red-handed; they deliberately withheld the information to benefit O’Malley’s reelection bid," GOP Chairwoman Audrey Scott said in a statement.
The initial analysis resurfaces at an uncomfortable time: Although the U.S Labor Department initially believed that Maryland experienced a small growth in jobs in July, it has revised its figures to show that the state actually lost a net of 1,000 jobs that month. Maryland employers shed another 5,700 jobs last month, according to that same U.S. Labor Department report.
Those new numbers underline the point that perhaps the state should have stuck with the glass-half-empty version of the analysis. From it:
"Job growth, although slowing, has proceeded without interruption over the last five months ... Growth, however, has been uneven and we can expect, in the months ahead, to face an uphill struggle in trying to regain the jobs lost during the downturn and to return to the peak employment level of February 2008."
The Sun examined how this week's jobs report forces a change in tone in the governor's race.
From the story:
As he opened a meeting of the state's spending panel on Wednesday, Gov. Martin O'Malley struck a somber tone. The day before, the state had released a report showing that Maryland had lost jobs for two months in a row.
"None of us can give up," he said. "There are better days coming."
It was a notable contrast to O'Malley's demeanor just a month ago, when he led a group of local officials gathered in Ocean City in a gleeful cheerleading chant: "Repeat after me. Five months. In a row. Of positive. Job growth."
The Democratic governor and his opponent this fall, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., both have said the economy is the single most important issue of the campaign. For months, O'Malley has trumpeted the state's monthly jobs gains in an attempt to temper voter anger about the national recession.
But the news this week that the state suffered two months of job losses after four months of growth means O'Malley must adopt a more muted approach when discussing the economy.
"There's no question the jobs report is going to have an impact on the campaign," said Todd Eberly, acting director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College.
*** New details. In late August, the Maryland GOP filed an open-records request for the July jobs report removed from the state labor department web site. On Monday, GOP officials put out a release saying they hadn't received the report from the agency.
A friend of the GOP forwarded the report to the party Thursday afternoon, around 2 p.m., according to GOP spokesman Ryan Mahoney. The party released a statement at 4 p.m. Two hours later, the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation sent the GOP the report via email, according to Mahoney and an O'Malley administration spokesman.
The administration spokesman contends that the GOP should have obtained the jobs report via mail a day earlier.
The headline of this blog post has been updated to reflect these new details.