Md. Republicans seize on economic report removed from state Web site
A state report on federal unemployment numbers released Friday that ran counter to a far more positive job-growth assessment offered by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) was pulled Friday from a Maryland state Web site, drawing condemnation from Republicans who charged that the administration was playing games with official state jobs reports.
The bullet-point-style document characterized Maryland's economic recovery as having "faltered in July," according to six people who viewed it before it was removed from the Maryland Department of Labor and Licensing Regulation's Web site.
An administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity who was familiar with the removal of the report characterized it as an "innocent mistake." The official said the report was an internal document prepared by a 30-year state analyst that was never supposed to be posted online. The official said that once state officials recognized the error, they removed it. The document was posted for about five hours, the official said.
However, with O'Malley touting a fifth consecutive month of Maryland job gains Friday, Republicans seized on the seemingly contradictory internal report and it's disappearance from the state Web site.
"As a record number of Marylanders remain out of work, Martin O'Malley appears to be playing games with the state's official jobs report," said Maryland Republican Party spokesman Ryan Mahoney. "Marylanders deserve to hear the truth rather than O'Malley's out-of-touch campaign rhetoric."
"You can draw your own conclusions" about the administration's motives for removing the report, said
Andy Barth, a spokesman for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (R), O'Malley's likely challenger in November.
O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said Republicans were using the removal of the report to skew the facts that Maryland gained 500 jobs in July.
"Regardless of how others want to discourage the progress that Maryland has been making with respect to job gains, no one can deny the fact that Maryland is outperforming the rest of the country when it comes to job creation," Adamec said. "The data is indisputable, regardless of how others want to spin it in an election year."
Nonetheless, the disappearance of the report amounted to a rare gaffe by O'Malley's administration that is sure to draw more scrutiny of state unemployment figures.
In a statement released Friday, O'Malley said the state had gained 40,000 jobs since January in one of its best performances in more than a decade.
"Our private sector has now added jobs for five consecutive months, proving that in these tough economic times, we continue to improve the conditions that allow businesses -- large and small -- to create and save jobs."
O'Malley's characterization of the numbers focused on the most positive aspect of U.S. Department of Labor data released Friday. Preliminary data for July showed Maryland payrolls grew slightly, from 2,530,700 to 2,531,200, an increase of 500 jobs. But the state's number of unemployed also edged up, from 209,400 to 210,700, an increase of 1,300. The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained the same at 7.1 percent.
Aaron C. Davis
August 20, 2010; 7:42 PM ET
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