Preliminary numbers for 2014 holiday sales show that overall retail numbers rose by 5.5 percent – with online e-commerce sales for desktop and mobile technology increasing 16 percent to $61 billion for the November to December period, according to researcher ComScore Inc.

What made these increases possible was the lower unemployment rates reported in early December coupled with increased consumer confidence and the decline in gas prices which left consumers with more money to spend overall.

The unemployment rate here in Maryland was reported down from 6.0 to 5.6 percent in November with the creation of a total of 3,800 jobs, 2,800 of which were created in the private sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The majority of these jobs were in Trade, Transportation and Utilities (2,600) – with a small number (200) coming from Retail Trade.

These signs of life in the economy could portend some good economic news for 2015 for Greater Baltimore. We have had approximately three months of steadily declining oil and gas prices; with many states, including Maryland, selling gas at levels not seen since 2009. Prices are averaging $2.29 per gallon currently, according to GasBuddy.com; and CNN speculates that prices will remain low due to weakness in European and Asian economies, U.S. oil output and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Here in the Greater Baltimore area, Senator Barbara Mikulski in a Press Release: Cyber Security at Naval Academy, reports that the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress on December 13 includes $120 million to build a cyber security center at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The Academy intends to implement a new cyber curriculum and major. The building itself will be a multi-story academic building with classroom and research labs, offices and lecture halls.

Towson Row, a $350 million mixed-use project proposed for Towson’s York Road corridor, was scheduled to begin the development approval process in Towson on December 23. Concurrently, County Council member David Marks, who represents Towson, is working for approval of a bill which would permit exemptions regarding parking, height and signage for the project.

Also in Baltimore County, the Sun reports that FedEx is looking into building a 43-acre distribution hub on the site of the former Sparrows Point steel mill in southeastern Baltimore County.

Finally, the University of Maryland is slated to open its Proton Cancer Treatment Center in 2015. This center will deliver targeted radiation cancer therapy to cancer cells minimizing damage to healthy tissue. The University of Maryland BioPark, where this center is located, employs 600 people; the center is expected to employ over 170 professionally trained staff members.

Susan Brown originally spent many years in banking/finance before confronting her addictions. She has now been in recovery for 20 years. Her current interests, in which she has several certifications, are metaphysics and the healing arts. She has written for Examiner.com since 2009 and also writes for Om Times.

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