Some good news, for once:  Maryland’s unemployment rate dropped below seven percent last month, and economists are predicting a (slightly) brighter 2012.

Of course, considering bleak recent months, almost anything could be an improvement.  2011 did see job growth overall, but it was a kind of growth that economists called “anemic.” Since the recession began four years ago, the state has added nearly 100,000 people to its unemployment rolls.  (About 207,000 Marylanders are currently unemployed.)  The 2,000 new jobs added in November put a dent in that number, but just barely.

Still, there is some reason for guarded optimism.  Maryland has had three straight months of job growth, for one.  For another, despite the fact that the state’s economic health is deeply entwined with that of the federal government, recent plans for federal cutbacks may not be as harmful to Maryland as you might think.  That’s because the private sector has been fueling the job growth around the state, in such industries as education and health services, hospitality, and construction.  (Meanwhile, 2,300 government jobs were cut.)  In all, about 22,000 jobs have been added by Maryland employers so far this year.

And as for next year? Some economists estimate a slightly-better job base increase of about 20 to 27,000 more jobs next year.  However, those are at best educated guesses.  “I think most folks that are making these projections are using a pencil with a big eraser on it,”  regional economist Gary D. Keith of M&T Bank told the Baltimore Sun. “There’s a lot of balls in the air relative to what we typically look at when we forecast.”