- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2001

The District and Maryland grew much slower during the 1990s than they did in the 1980s and experienced some of the slowest growth in the nation during the past decade, the Commerce Department said yesterday.
Maryland's economy grew an average 3 percent between 1992 and 1999, below the 4 percent national average. The performance placed Maryland 40th among the 50 states in economic growth.
During the same period, the District's economy grew three-tenths of 1 percent, the second-slowest rate in the nation. Virginia's economy grew 3.6 percent, making it 29th among the 50 states in economic growth.
The three jurisdictions grew at a much slower rate than they did during the booming 1980s, according to Commerce Department data. Between 1982 and 1989, Virginia grew an average 9.6 percent. Maryland grew an average 9.5 percent and the District grew 7.5 percent during the period.
The national average economic growth rate was 7.3 percent, according to the Commerce Department.
The 1992-99 numbers reflect a recessionary period in which the Washington area was hit hard by federal government downsizing, according to local economist Stephen S. Fuller, a public policy professor at George Mason University.
Between 1993 and 2000, the federal government cut 66,600 local jobs, a 17 percent decrease in local federal employment, he said.
"Keep in mind that all the technology-related growth we have seen in this area has really only happened within the last three years," Mr. Fuller said.
Anirban Basu, director of applied economics for RESI, Towson University's economic consulting arm, said the Washington area's economy was slower to emerge from the 1990-91 recession than the rest of the nation.
In addition to federal job cuts, the region lost jobs when local banks were taken over by out-of-area chains and from cutbacks in the defense industry, he said.
"It all trickled down," Mr. Basu said.
The economy in each jurisdiction is more diverse than it was in the 1980s, according to local business officials.
In Maryland, for example, roughly 55,000 jobs were created between 2000 and 2001, according to RESI data. The state's chief economist, Pradeep Ganguly, said Maryland is increasingly dependent on the information technology and biotechnology sectors, unlike the 1980s when the federal government and defense industry were dominant.
The Commerce Department numbers can be misleading, Mr. Fuller warned. For example, economic growth in the rural counties of southern Virginia tend to be behind the wealthier Northern Virginia region, he said.
"When you add all the pieces up, the whole picture doesn't look that good," he said.
The Commerce Department bases its numbers on each state's gross state product, or total value of goods and services in each jurisdiction.
Arizona, whose economy grew 7.3 percent, led the nation in economic growth during the eight-year period the Commerce Department examined.
Other states that did significantly better than the 4 percent national average were Nevada, with an economy averaging 7 percent growth; followed by Oregon, 6.8 percent; Colorado, 6.6 percent; Idaho, 6.6 percent; New Hampshire, 6.3 percent; Utah, 6.3 percent; and New Mexico, 6.2 percent.
Most of the states with high growth rates saw big gains in the manufacture and sale of computers and related products such as software programs, according to Commerce Department spokesman Richard Beemiller.
Hawaii turned in the worst economic performance during the period, with its economy shrinking on average by 0.3 percent. Government analysts said the state had trouble emerging from the 1990-91 recession and then was hard hit by the 1997-98 global economic crisis, which cut into the state's tourism business.
California, with the biggest economy in the nation, averaged growth of 3.9 percent during the eight-year period, just under the national average but below many of the fast-growing Western states.


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