Mass. unemployment rate holds steady at 9%
Massachusetts employers added jobs for the sixth consecutive month in July as the state economy continued a broad recovery that is outpacing the nation as whole.
The state gained more than 13,000 jobs in July, while data revisions showed that employment growth in June, nearly 3,000 jobs, was far stronger than initially estimated, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported today. The state unemployment rate held steady at 9 percent.
Employment in Massachusetts has increased despite a slowing national economy. The nation, largely due to layoffs of temporary US Census workers, has lost jobs in each of the past two months. Private sector job growth, however, has also been weak, while first-time claims for unemployment benefits have been rising, hitting 500,000 last week for the first time since November.
"There's a trend here in Massachusetts, and it's positive,'' said Michael Goodman, economic analyst and professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. "But this is going to be difficult to sustain if there is continued weakness in the national and international economies."
The Massachusetts economy has been expanding at a solid clip since it emerged from the recession about a year ago. In the past six months alone, the state has added more than 60,000 jobs, about double the best year for employment growth in the recovery that followed the 2001 recession.
Employment Massachusetts has grown at an annual rate of about 4 percent over six months, compared with about 1 percent nationally, according state and federal statistics. The national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in July.
The strong job growth is "not an accident," Governor Deval Patrick said in an interview.
"The economy is responding to our strategy, which is education, innovation, and infrastructure," Patrick said. "We are on the mend and on the move."
Still, with a high unemployment rate, and more than 300,000 residents out of work, Patrick said, the recovery has a long way to go in Massachusetts. Even with the recent growth, the state still has 106,000 fewer jobs than when the recession began in the spring of 2008.
"If you're out of work, good statistics are cold comfort,'' Patrick said.
Patrick's opponents in the November election, Republican Charles Baker, and state Treasurer Timothy Cahill, running as an Independent, said the latest employment statistics are nothing to celebrate.
"The fact of the matter is that unemployment has doubled since the Governor took office and there are still nearly 11,000 more Massachusetts residents who are unemployed now than there were a year ago," Cahill said in a statement. "If the governor thinks this is a success, then we have a long way to go for getting the 312,300 residents who are still unemployed back to work.”
Baker said Patrick's tax and regulatory polices are preventing Massachusetts businesses from hiring at a pace that would lower the unemployment rate.
“While any job growth is good news right now, 312,000 people remain out of work," Baker said in a statement. " We have to do better.”
The state has recovered quickly from the recession because of an industry mix that depends more on technology and business spending and less on housing and consumers, according to economists. In the two previous recessions, led by technology and spending busts, the state's industry mix meant longer and deeper downturns. This time, a national housing collapse and pullback in consumer spending led the recession.
Last month's employment gains were broad-based in Massachusetts, with only one major sector, government, experiencing losses. Those losses, totaling 6,000 jobs, were concentrated in the federal government, largely due to cuts in Census positions, state labor officials said.
Private companies, however, added more than 19,000 positions in July, the strongest monthly private sector job growth in 20 years. The gains were led by 6,500 new jobs in leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants and hotels.
The state's economic drivers also experienced strong employment growth. Professional and business services, which include a variety of technical, scientific and technology firms, added 2,700 jobs. Manufacturing added 2,800 jobs, the fifth month of employment growth in the past six, and financial services gained 800 jobs. Education and health services added 600.
Even construction continued to rebound, adding jobs for the fourth consecutive month. The sector, which lost about 35,000 jobs in the recession, or one in four, gained 500 jobs in July and has added 6,500 since March.