EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 24, 2014

Unemployment rate down in Massachusetts

By Andy Metzger
State House News Service

---- — BOSTON – The state’s unemployment rate continued a three-month slide downwards and Massachusetts continued to pack on jobs in December, the Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported yesterday.

The 55,500 jobs added between December 2012 and December 2013 was the largest job growth in that timeframe since the dot-com era job additions between December 1999 and December 2000, a Patrick administration official said.

The state’s 7 percent unemployment rate, down from 7.1 percent, remains above the national rate of 6.7 percent in December, a departure from recent years when the national jobless rate exceeded the state rate. November was the first month in several years that the state’s rate surpassed the national rate.

The state added 10,400 jobs in December, according to the preliminary numbers. The last time the state exceeded December’s rate of single-month job growth was January 2013 when the state heaped on 18,900 jobs.

“We think it’s really good news. Any time we gain jobs in significant number, we think it’s good for the economy,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne Goldstein, who said new jobs have a “ripple effect” creating more new jobs. Goldstein said December was also the fifth consecutive month of job gains.

Goldstein is leaving the Cabinet for a job at Northeastern University, and Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian will take her place.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts Vice President of Marketing and Communications Christopher Geehern said the December jobs numbers are encouraging, though employer confidence has vacillated the past several months, essentially remaining at the “midpoint between optimism and pessimism.”

“One would ordinarily expect a larger jump in employer confidence than we’ve seen,” Geehern told the News Service, theorizing that the Great Recession’s “psychological effect” was more severe than had been thought. He said, “Employers remain very cautious about the economy. They remain cautious about particularly the federal government to manage its budget appropriately.”

Nearly all of December’s job growth came in the professional, scientific and business services, and the trade transportation and utilities sectors. Leisure and hospitality also added 2,600 jobs while growth in other areas was more limited, and the construction sector lost 1,300.