Gloucester's unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent in the month of May, the latest state jobless statistics show, the city's lowest jobless rate figure for the city since at least the summer of 2008.
But while some statistics point to an improving local economy, the city's unemployment figure remains above the state's May average of 5.8 percent, and is still higher than the figures for any of the surrounding Cape Ann towns.
According to the latest figures compiled by the state's Executive office of Labor and Workforce Management, Gloucester's jobless rate fell from a revised April figure of 7.1 percent, and the new mark shows a 19-percent improvement over the figure for the same month a year ago, May 2011.
The May figure also stands as the lowest unemployment percentage Gloucester has posted for any month in either 2009, 2010 or 2011, with last year's monthly rates falling no lower than the 7.4 percent posted for last August.
The May statistics also show documented gains in the number of people holding jobs, with 14,483 working in May compared to 14,426 in April of this year and to 14,193 listed as working in May 2011.
Yet the state statistics show that the city's workforce also continued to decline in May — a month that included a surge in seasonal employment through Memorial Day Weekend and a time when the city's workforce would traditionally be considered higher, as college students return to seasonal or other jobs and new graduates are added to the mix.
The state figures for May peg Gloucester's workforce at 15,458, down from 15,536 in April, though up from the mark of 15,395 posted for May 2011.
The state's 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.
And analysts across the state and the nation have raised concerns that the declining trend of overall workforce figures illustrates a gap that does not account for a number of people who are still jobless, but who have fallen off the unemployment rolls and are no longer tracked statistically.
Gloucester's total workforce as documented by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Management stood as high as 16,429 as recently as July 2010 — and the May 2012 figures show a 5.9 percent drop in the size of the city's workforce over the last 22 months.
Gloucester's gains on the jobs front mirror the statistical performance of all three Cape Ann towns.
Rockport showed a jobless rate of 4.4 percent in May, down from its 5.1 percent figure for April and down by 35 percent from 6.7 percent posted in May 2012. The 4.4 percent figure marks the first time Rockport's rate has been below the 5.0 percent mark for any month since 2009.
Essex posted an unemployment rate of 5.0 percent for May, down from 5.5 percent in April and down again from the 5.3 percent of May 2011.
Manchester's unemployment rate for May came in at 4.6 percent, down from 4.8 percent in April and down from 5.0 percent in May 2012, though still above the 4.5 percent the town's jobless rate hit in October 2011.