With a quarter of the state's workforce jobless amid fallout from the coronavirus, unemployment in many communities has risen to its highest levels in decades, according to a new report.

The report, released Thursday by a conservative think tank, provides a town-by-town breakdown of unemployment that lays bare the impact of government-ordered shutdowns to prevent spread of COVID-19.

One of the hardest hit communities is Lawrence, where unemployment jumped from from 5.3% in March to more than 32.6% this month — among the worst in state. More than 13,000 workers are out of jobs, according to the Pioneer Institute report.

But Lawrence is far from the only north of Boston community to see a sizable portion of its population join the ranks of unemployed.

Haverhill's unemployment rate, which was 3.5 % in March, has risen to 26.9%, with more than 9,000 residents out of work, according to the report.

Gloucester's rate has mushroomed from 2.9% in March to 27.3%, with at least 4,433 residents out of work.

The rate in Salem, Mass., rose from 3.6% to nearly 28% with nearly 7,000 unemployed workers. And Newburyport's unemployment rate has risen from 2.9% to 24%.

Rebekah Paxton, a Pioneer researcher who authored the report, said the data shows the virus has affected some communities more than others.

"It's clear that some towns are getting hit harder," she said. "The hospitality, tourism, health care and retail sectors have had the highest concentration of unemployment over the past couple of month, and communities that rely heavily on those industries have fared worse than others."

Pioneer's COVID-19 Unemployment Tracker, which will be updated weekly, relies on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports to estimate the rates, which haven't been verified by state officials. Paxton said the data is crucial for policymakers to determine the economic impact of the pandemic.

The state's unemployment rate, which was 2.5% in February, has ballooned to about 25%, according to state data.

Nearly 1 million Massachusetts workers have filed for unemployment benefits since the outbreak began in mid-March, while another 185,000 have filed for special benefits now available to people who wouldn't otherwise get them, according to the state's Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

More than 36 million Americans have filed for new unemployment claims since the outbreak began.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhi.com



Local Unemployment

City/town#Unemployment rate#Unemployed*

Lawrence 32.6% 13,072

Haverhill 26.8% 9,726

Salem, Mass., 27.9% 6,994

Gloucester 27.3% 4,433

Methuen 25.9% 7,732

Salisbury 27.1% 1,369

Peabody 27% 8,003

Beverly 26% 6,355

Amesbury 25% 12,571

Newburyport 24% 2,504

Source: Data from Pioneer Institute's COVID Unemployment Tracker. *Rate estimated as of May 2.


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