The state Labor and Workforce Development figures and the numbers from the North Shore Workforce Investment Board — both showing that Gloucester continues to gain overall jobs, but with the greatest gains in low-paying employment categories – are largely a reflection of similar figures from around the state and the country.
Yet they do paint an interesting picture showing that — even considering job growth at industrial companies such as Gloucester Engineering, Varian/Applied Materials, and Bomco Industries — the average number of a people working at Gloucester manufacturing companies remains below the 2,800 who were on those jobs in 2007, with that average falling by 420 jobs, or 15 percent, to 2,350 by the end of 2011.
In many ways, the statistics also document what many people have clearly seen – that Gloucester is growing significantly in the retail and tourism sectors. And that indeed is boosting the city’s status in the jobs market, with Gloucester’s unemployment rate for each month this year falling well below the same months for 2011.
But these numbers should also spotlight the need for Mayor Carolyn Kirk and the city to accelerate naming of a true economic development director as promised earlier this year, and it should raise the urgency for both pulling the I-4, C-2 site out from under the state’s Designated Port Area limits and promoting that site or industrial park space for businesses that could create jobs in perhaps the field of marine research or another high-tech field.
Given the current employment crunch, there is a lot to be said for any project that adds jobs — in Gloucester, or anywhere else. But this report should also be a wakeup call for officials to note that economic health is not illustrated solely by a declining year-to-year unemployment rate. Reports of newly-created jobs don’t do much good if any single worker needs two or three of them to make ends meet.