This metro, which bills itself as "America's Greatest Family Resort," has a split personality. The population has declined. Unemployment is worse than a year ago and stands at a quite high 11.8 percent. Some sectors of its economy – notably trade, transportation, and utilities – are seeing employment fall and others, like commercial real estate, are struggling. But the metro's all-important leisure and hospitality sector, which employs a quarter or more of Ocean City's workers (depending on the season), is up 7.4 percent from a year ago.
How can a place create new jobs and yet have its unemployment rate go up? Because of the way the surveys are constructed, people are only considered part of the workforce if they're actively looking for a job. As an economy improves, more people actively look for work, swelling the number of people in the workforce who aren't yet employed. That should be a good signal. After gas prices and the recent recession cut into its tourist traffic, the metro is now expanding its marketing to reach vacationers from far away, including Ohio, Virginia, and Quebec. Tourism had a $5.1 billion economic impact on the county last year, and its beaches weathered superstorm Sandy relatively well, so a good tourist season next year could brighten the area's prospects.