Gloucester's unemployment rate, still some 12 percent above the state average, showed a significant drop for the second consecutive month, and continues to trend well below the rate for the similar month last year.
But the city's April jobless rate of 7.1 percent — down from a revised figure of 8.7 percent in March, and below the April 2011 mark of 8.8 percent, according to statistics from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development — also comes as the state's numbers show Gloucester with a loss of more than 180 people from its labor force, a trend being viewed statewide and nationally as illustrating people who are still jobless, but who have fallen off the unemployment rolls and are no longer tracked statistically.
The monthly Labor and Workforce Development reports for cities and towns measure the number of unemployed in the context of the recognized work force — which does not account for those who have lost their jobs and have seen their unemployment eligibility expire.
In Gloucester's case, the new figures for April of this year show that number of unemployed fell from 1,364 in March to 1,107 in April, and that the number of those who are employed rose 14,345 in March to an April figure of 14,442. But the state figures also show that Gloucester's documented labor force fell by 180 from 15,709 in March to 15,529 — parallel to a drop from 15,819 in February to the 15,709 in March, when the city's jobless rate fell from 10.1 to 8.7 percent.
"I think that's clearly one of the major contributors to (the in drop in work force numbers)," said Robert Heidt, CEO of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, whose agency co-hosted a spring job fair that drew some two dozen local employers and 200 job-seekers to the Elks Lodge at Bass Rocks. "I think sometimes we can forget that — yes, we're hopeful, and there are signs of economic recovery — there are a lot of people who have falling off the rolls and out of the system. And a lot of employers are still moving cautiously."
The latest Gloucester figures do mark the first time since last October that Gloucester's jobless rate — traditionally higher in the winter months due to the generally seasonal tourism economy and, in part, to seasonal jobs within the fishing industry — has dipped below the national rate, which was 8.1 percent in April and has risen to 8.2 percent in May.
Labor and Workforce development figures for May show the state's average at 6.0 percent, but May statistics for the state's individual cities and towns were not available as of Monday.
The pattern of unemployment numbers for Gloucester generally extends to Cape Ann's three towns as well, with all showing improvement from March to April, and all running better than for the same month of 2011:
Essex posted an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent for April, down from 6.8 percent in March and down from 6.2 percent in April 2011.
Rockport showed a jobless rate of 5 percent in April, down by 32 percent from a figure of 7.3 percent in March and from 8.2 percent in April 2011.
Manchester's unemployment rate for April came in at 4.8 percent, down from 5.7 percent in March and form a figure of 5.2 percent in April 2011.
All three of the towns' rates are below both the state and national averages.
The Labor and Workforce Development report notes that the March figures for cities and towns are not "seasonally adjusted," though they once again measure a time when local businesses were starting to look toward the heart of the summer season.
Gloucester's improving figures also come as the city's economy and jobless numbers continue to gain increased visibility locally.
Under the city's fiscal 2013 budget, Mayor Carolyn Kirk is continuing to restructure the city's Community Development Department to include a new economic development director while former Community Development chief Sarah Garcia is now serving as harbor planning and development chief, in a position funded through a state Seaport Advisory grant and focusing on the city's waterfront and maritime economy.