The Washington County government announced recently that its annual business and industry survey showed there had been a net gain of more than 440 jobs in the past year.
But that isn’t the whole story.
Despite the increase in the county’s January unemployment rate, the county said in an emailed news release on March 22, “the annual Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Business Industry Report confirmed an increase of 448 jobs within the County based on 2012 reporting data through March 22, 2013.”
What the county didn’t say is that almost all of that net gain was because of new jobs funded by taxpayers, according to an examination of the county’s data by The Herald-Mail.
The newspaper’s review of the county’s 2012 Business & Industry Directory and the just-released 2013 Business & Industry Directory shows that 437 of the additional jobs are new positions at Hagerstown Community College and in federal, state and county government jobs in Washington County.
The town governments of Boonsboro, Sharpsburg, Smithsburg and Williamsport reduced their staffs by a total of five workers. The five other municipal governments, including Hagerstown’s, didn’t increase or decrease the number of their employees.
That means that in the past year, according to the county’s net gain figure of 448 new jobs and its data in the directories, there was a net gain of 16 jobs in the private business sector. That means that almost all of the others are publicly funded.
Asked about this on Friday, County Commissioner President Terry Baker said he had not been aware that almost all of the net gain in jobs was in the public sector.
But Baker said it doesn’t matter to him whether the jobs are publicly funded or privately funded. “I’m just pleased that our citizens are being provided employment opportunities. To me, that’s the important thing,” he said.
And, he said, “when you look at jobs (increasing) out at the college, that tells me that people are going back to college. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to become employed and self-sufficient.”
Adding and subtracting
The directories list more than 500 organizations — businesses, colleges and governments. The alphabetical index in the back begins with Abbey Carpet & Floors in 2012’s directory and with A Cut Above Hair Design Inc. in 2013’s, and ends with Zeltex Inc. in both.
The newspaper was unable to confirm how the county arrived at its determination of a net gain of 448 jobs between the listings in the two directories.
Assistant County Administrator Sarah Sprecher, who issued the March 22 press release announcing the net jobs gain, declined the newspaper’s repeated requests to help it further explain the number.
“The EDC,” she wrote in an April 9 e-mail, referring to the county Economic Development Commission, “contacted all of the local businesses in last year’s B&I Directory and compared their employment numbers to this year through March of 2013. Some businesses added jobs, some decreased — but the 448 figure accounts for the net jobs of those listed in the directory.”
The comparison between the jobs listed in each directory isn’t clear because the directories don’t give a total job count and the listings aren’t altogether the same companies.
Some just went into business in the past year. Some are decades-old but weren’t listed in the 2012 directory and are listed in 2013’s. And, some of those listed in 2012 aren’t in the 2013 directory — either because they didn’t respond to the 2013 survey, or they moved away or they went out-of-business, the newspaper determined.
By the newspaper’s count, with information gleaned from the two directories, the businesses, colleges and governments in the 2012 directory provided a total of 37,160 jobs and those in the 2013 directory provided a total of 38,261 jobs.
Those numbers include 25 jobs created in the past year by six new companies, 663 jobs provided by existing businesses that aren’t listed in 2012 but are listed in 2013, and 513 jobs provided by 20 companies that were listed in 2012 but aren’t in the 2013 directory.
Then there’s the net increase in government and other publicly funded jobs.
According to the newspaper’s review of these publicly funded jobs, as listed in the county’s directories: