Statistics from the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development show Gloucester’s economy is gaining jobs, but the same figures also show the rebound is creating far more lower-paying jobs than anything else.
The numbers from the department and the North Shore Workforce Investment Board (WIB) show that the city’s economy has reached employment levels of where it was in 2007, before the worst of the recession. In the years following, Gloucester shed higher-paying manufacturing jobs and lower-paying retail and food service work filled the gap.
While wages and employment are higher than they were in the last few years, Gloucester’s unemployment rate hit 6.5 percent in September. While the rate rose from the August figure of 6.1, it’s still lower than the unemployment rate in September 2011. And Chamber of Commerce President Robert Heidt said the increase was largely caused by a loss of seasonal jobs.
In 2007, manufacturing companies — identified in the state statistics as durable goods manufacturing companies —employed the largest segment of Gloucester’s workforce. They still do, just by a much smaller margin.
An average 2,800 people worked in Gloucester manufacturing companies, according to an average monthly employment spreadsheet from the WIB. But in 2011, according to year-long tracking data, that average had fallen to 2,350, meaning that, over five years, Gloucester lost 420 manufacturing jobs, a 15 percent decrease.
Over those five years, meanwhile, retail jobs have grown in the city by almost 30 percent — or 365 jobs — according to the WIB. An average of 1,592 people worked in Gloucester retail stores in 2011, while accommodations and food service jobs rose by 20 percent over the last five years, adding 214 jobs.
“We’ve almost reached the 2007 (employment) levels,” said Peter Webber, senior vice president at the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, “but within that, the numbers have shifted. There’s been a shift from manufacturing into retail and accommodations, or broadly defined, the tourism sector.”