For instance, spending at local restaurants, supermarkets, and other such food and beverage outlets increased more than 5 percent during the first nine months of this year, compared to a year ago. The category is the county's second largest economic sector.
But every other sector here still is showing the problems of the recession.
Furniture and appliance sales are down 20 percent overall. Sales in the building and industrial supplies sector fell 16 percent overall.
Businesses of nearly every kind throughout Maryland continue to struggle, according to the sales tax data.
In a report Nov. 17 to Gov. Martin O'Malley and other top state leaders, state Comptroller Peter Franchot said general fund sales tax receipts for September sales fell 5.4 percent in October. He said they remain down 7.5 percent for the year.
But, Franchot said, there is reason to hope.
"While perhaps not indicative that we have passed the bottom, October's relatively mild monthly decrease in gross receipts, (of minus 6.2 percent), represents the smallest decline since March," he wrote.
Maryland's sales tax data is issued monthly. It shows how much "sales and use tax" businesses have collected in each county.
The "sales tax" part of that is the 6-cent tax on every dollar people spend on taxable goods bought in Maryland. Basically, the "use tax" is a 6-cent sales tax on taxable stuff you buy out of state, but use here.
The "use tax" is hard to measure when it comes to stories that examine spending patterns in any one area. A technician who helps compile the state reports said he finds that the "use tax" generally is 1 percent to 2 percent of the overall "sales and use tax revenue."
For our analyses, therefore, The Herald-Mail ignores the fact that a very small part of the tax collections reported isn't from purchases made at Maryland businesses.