GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 18, 2013

Jobless rate for city tops 10% mark

By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — In the same week the Gloucester City Council approved permits for a landmark waterfront development proposal, a new round of state figures released Friday shows the city’s unemployment rate leapt back over the 10-percent mark in January, crossing that threshhold for the first time in nearly two years.

The January statistics for cities and towns released Friday by the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development show Gloucester with a jobless rate of 10.1 percent, well above the state’s overall January unemployment rate of 7.4 percent and Essex County’s 7.6 percent mark.

The new figure for the city also tops Gloucester’s own rate of 8.7 percent posted for December, and – for the second straight month – tops the level for the comparable rate for the same month a year earlier.

The city’s unemployment rate for January 2012 was listed at 9.9 percent, and the January 2013 figure is the city’s highest unemployment mark since the rate hit 11.2 percent in February 2011. Last year’s February rate was initially announced at 10.1 percent, but the state’s workforce development office later revised that figure to a mark of 9.7 percent.

Gloucester’s unemployment statistics also run higher than in other communities on Cape Ann. The January statistics for the three Cape Ann towns show:

Rockport posted a January unemployment rate of 8.7 percent, up from both its December mark of 7.5 percent and its January 2012 rate of 8.2 percent.

Essex is listed with a January jobless rate of 7.5 percent, up by 23 percent from December’s rate of 6.1 percent, yet improved slightly from a mark of 7.6 percent for January 2012.

Manchester posted a January 2013 unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, up from December’s rate of 5.5 percent yet — like Essex — down a tenth of a percentage point from its 6.6 percent rate of January 2012.

The hard numbers behind Gloucester’s latest unemployment jump, as reported by the state, show that the number of jobless Gloucester workers jumped from 1,396 in December to 1,631 in January – also the city’s largest single increase in that category in more than a year.

At the same time, the number of people working fell from 14,569 in December to 14,460 in January. That’s out of a documented city labor force that rose slightly from 15,965 to 16,091 — still the highest level the city’s workforce has hit in more than a year as well.

Massachusetts’ monthly Labor and Workforce Development reports — issued monthly for the state, for each county, and for individual cities and towns — track the number of unemployed within the context of the recognized work force. And analysts throughout the state and the nation have raised concerns that persistent declines or only slight increases in an overall workforce figures can spotlight a gap in the reporting system, which has no means of documenting people who are, in fact, still jobless, but who have fallen off the unemployment rolls and are no longer statistically tracked.

While Gloucester’s and Cape Ann’s unemployment figures traditionally rise during the winter months, the fact that Gloucester’s figures have now risen above similar months from the previous year continues a trend that has just resurfaced since November 2012.

The city – which had consistently posted monthly jobless figures lower than the previous year’s for 15 straight months — has seemingly made job gains through major employers such as Gloucester Engineering and Varian Semiconductors/Applied Materials, Gloucester continues to lose ground through job cuts and boat business failures in the fishing industry, where the Department of Commerce declared a recognized “economic disaster” across New England and the Northeast in September, and where fishermen face dire new NOAA cuts in quota limits of up to 77 percent in the new fishing year that’s due to start May 1.

The latest Gloucester figure, however, did surface at the end of a week in which the City Council approved permits for the planned 101-room Beauport Gloucester hotel on Pavilion Beach and Commercial Street.

Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo, who is developing the hotel in the Beauport Gloucester partnership with New Balance owner Jim Davis, is projecting the hotel will bring some 150 jobs, while also providing a temporary jobs boost through the construction project itself.

Regionally, Essex County’s January unemployment rate of 7.6 percent marks an improvement from the countywide average of 7.9 percent in January 2012. And that positive step comes despite a January jobless rate of 15.1 percent for the city of Lawrence.

Gloucester’s 10.1 percent January mark is also better than the unemployment rate posted for its closest fishing industry ally. New Bedford’s January jobless rate came in at 14.2 percent, according to the state figures.