Gloucester's unemployment rate fell comfortably below the 10-percent figure in March, according to the state's latest jobless figures for individual cities and towns, and it remains on an improved pace from the previous year.
But Gloucester's March 2012 unemployment rate of 8.6 percent, as reported by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, remains 33 percent above the state norm, with 1,358 of the city's recognized workforce in the city's labor force of 15,703 seen as on the unemployment lines.
The 8.6 percent city jobless rate is an improvement over both the state's revised February mark of 10.1 percent — initially reported at 10.2 — and the rate for March 2011, when the city's unemployment figure still hovered at 10.6 percent coming out of Gloucester's traditionally slow employment months of January and February.
Yet the mark is 34 percent above the state's reported March figure of 6.4 percent, which recognized more than 220,000 jobless workers out of a statewide workforce of 3.2 million.
The trend in Gloucester's unemployment figures also parallels the rates of Cape Ann's towns.
Rockport's unemployment rate for March was pegged by the Labor and Workforce Development charts at 7.3 percent, down from 8.1 percent in February and from 10.7 percent in March 2011.
The March jobless rate for Essex was reported at 6.9 percent, down from marks of 7.9 percent in both February of this year and in March of a year ago.
The unemployment rate for Manchester — the only Cape Ann community with a jobless rate at or below the state norm, was listed at 5.7 percent for March, down from 6.6 percent in February of this year and 6.5 percent March 2011.
The Labor and Workforce Development report notes that the March figures for cities and towns are not "seasonally adjusted," though they measure a time when local businesses were starting to look toward spring and, this year, a relatively early Easter/Passover season, with both of those holidays falling over the first weekend of April.
Gloucester's improved figures also came while the city's economy and jobless number gained increased visibility locally.
On the government level, Mayor Carolyn Kirk announced plans to restructure the city's Community Development Department, with plans to name an economic development director while shifting former Community Development chief Sarah Garcia to a harbor Planning and Development post, with greater emphasis on Gloucester's waterfront and maritime economy.
In the private sector, more than 200 people and 20 local and regional companies and institutions turned out for a hastily-organized early April jobs fair at the Elks at Bass Rocks, hosted by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, Action Inc., the North Shore Career Center and the Boston-based Eliot Community Human Services.
On the state level, the figures come amid a renewed flap over the state's job figures themselves; Gov. Deval Patrick last week called it "frustrating" to see official job creation estimates for the state rise and fall as initial reports are revised and assessed by federal agencies.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics in March issued revised jobs numbers based on a new methodology suggesting that Massachusetts added nearly 30,000 fewer jobs in 2011 than previously reported.
Other critics have noted that the monthly Labor and Workforce Development reports measure the number of unemployed in the context of the recognized workforce — which does not account for those who have lost their jobs, yet fallen off the unemployment rolls and state statistical summaries.
In that vein, while Gloucester's March jobless rate showed drops compared to both February and to March 2011, the Labor and Workforce report indicates that Gloucester's recognized workforce fell from 15,819 in February and 15,878 in March 2011 to 15,703 in March of this year.
State House News Service material is included in this story.