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November 1, 2012

No alarms sound on jobless rate

While the unemployment rates of Gloucester and two Cape Ann towns all jumped in September, the head of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce said that’s not a sign that the region’s economy is suffering.

Gloucester’s unemployment rate jumped from 6 percent in August to 6.5 percent in September as the city shed 63 jobs, according to the latest figures from Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, while Manchester and Rockport experienced similar increases. Only Essex saw its unemployment rate fall last month.

The September uptick primarily stems from a loss of seasonal jobs, said the Chamber’s chief executive officer Robert Heidt. Even with the .5 percent increase in the number of unemployed Gloucester residents tracked by the state, Heidt noted, the city is still below where it was this time last year.

This time last year, Gloucester’s September unemployment rate sat at 7.8 percent. Then, like now, the city’s unemployment rate sat above state averages, but the state average for September this time around was 6.4 percent. In August 2011, the city’s rate had been at 7.4 percent, marking virtually the same level of increase it did from last August.

Heidt said having that number down from where it was in 2011 – as has been the case throughout the year — means that Cape Ann is showing signs of economic growth. In Gloucester and the surrounding towns, Heidt said, new shops have opened and businesses had a strong summer season.

This year, he said, the summer season started earlier, and businesses stepped up in hiring, albeit gradually.

“I think it’s been more gradual,” Heidt said.

Heidt said he’s seen that most clearly in Essex. After the three year reconstruction of Route 133, business in town has picked up, he said. The town bucked the trend for the rest of Cape Ann, and saw it’s unemployment rate drop from 4.5 percent in August to 4.3 percent in September.

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