Mass. unemployment rate rises to 9.4 percent
The Massachusetts unemployment rate surged by nearly a point in December, driving joblessness to its highest level since the 1970s, and dealing another setback to a labor market that appeared on the mend.
The state unemployment rate leapt to 9.4 percent from 8.7 percent in November, more than reversing two previous months of significant declines, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.
It's the highest rate since September 1976, when the state was recovering from energy crisis recession that began in 1973.
Massachusetts employers, meanwhile, slashed another 8,400 jobs, the most since September. Since the recession began in March 2008, the state has shed more than 136,000 jobs, including 66,000 in 2009.
"It is disappointing, and we realize there are real people behind these numbers," said Joanne Goldstein, state secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. "We're in a volatile time economically, and we think we'll be back on track. But it's not going to be a straight line forward."
The dismal performance of the state's labor markets coincides with a disappointing December for national employment. US employers cut another 85,000 jobs last month, bringing overall job losses for the recession to more than 7 million, according to the US Labor Department.
Job losses in Massachusetts were concentrated in sectors that depend on consumer spending, adding to evidence that the high rate of joblessness is eroding incomes and weighing on the recovery. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants and hotels, lost 3,400 jobs. Retailers shed 3,300 jobs.
The hard hit construction sector lost more that 1,800 jobs, after two months of small gains. Professional and business services, which include a variety of professional, consulting, and technical firms, shed 1,400 jobs, nearly reversing gains of 1,500 jobs in November.
Education and health care continued to bring some stability to the labor market, adding 1,000 jobs, the third consecutive monthly gain. Manufacturing added 500 jobs, the sector's second consecutive monthly gain. Financial services added 300 jobs.
Government added 900 jobs, although state officials said the number was inflated by the process that adjusts employment for seasonal variations. State payrolls show employment continuing to decline. Over the year, federal, state, and local governments have shed more than 11,000 jobs.
To read today's press release from the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, please click here.