EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 7, 2014

Mass. gains 55K jobs in 2013 but jobless rate up

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts gained more than 55,000 jobs in 2013, the largest calendar year increase since 2000, state officials reported yesterday.

The strong growth in jobs came in a year during which the state’s monthly unemployment rate crept up to and eventually exceeded the national unemployment rate for the first time since 2007, a fact officials said was attributable to more people looking for work in a healthier economy.

The state’s Labor and Workforce Development office also released the preliminary jobs reports for January, showing a net decline of 4,500 jobs during that month, while the overall unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a point to 6.8 percent.

The national unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in January.

Gov. Deval Patrick called the statewide increase of 55,200 jobs last year encouraging, and said he was confident of the direction the Massachusetts economy was moving in. He also noted an uneven prosperity around the state.

“At the same time, I know that not every community and not every household are feeling the effects of the recovery as yet,” Patrick said on a conference call with reporters.

The governor pointed to other signals of economic strength, including a recent report from the economic journal MassBenchmarks showing the state’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 5.5 percent, outpacing a 3.2 percent national growth rate in the final three months of 2013. He also said the state is leading the nation in venture capital spending.

Massachusetts is deploying strategies to address regional economic disparities, Patrick added, pointing to recent gains in manufacturing employment in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts and Merrimack Valley in the northeastern part of the state, two of the areas hardest hit by the recession.

Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki said the 2013 job numbers, along with gains posted in the three previous years, demonstrate Massachusetts has advanced beyond simply rebounding from the economic downturn that hit the nation almost seven years ago.

The contrasting rise in the unemployment rate to a level higher than the nation as a whole has puzzled some state officials and economists, but Bialecki said he was not discouraged by the figures. He said they showed more people were feeling optimistic enough about the state’s economy to re-enter the labor market and look for work.

“It means we have to keep adding jobs,” he said. “If we keep adding jobs ... the unemployment rate will start coming down.”