, Gloucester, MA


July 30, 2013

Editorial: Hard job numbers spotlight urgency for development

Each month, state and federal officials make pronouncements regarding job growth – failing to mention, of course, whether the always added jobs are full-time or part-time, seasonal, or whether the added jobs are actually just the second or even third jobs held down by the workers who get them.

At the same time, the state’s and communities’ unemployment rates ebb and flow, with a 15 percent drop in Gloucester’s jobless rate between April and May seen as an encouraging sign — until anyone looking closer could find an inexplicable April-to-May drop in the city’s workforce, usually a sure sign that some collecting unemployment had merely seen their benefits expire and were no longer being tracked.

There’s no mistaking any interpretation of the state’s Labor and Workforce Development figures spotlighted in Monday’s Times that showed 254 more workers across Cape Ann were unemployed this June — nearing the height of the seasonal jobs and tourism season — then were on the jobless lines at the same time last year. And that’s an issue that officials in Gloucester and all three Cape Ann towns should keep on their front burner until those numbers change.

Gloucester, of course, has some projects in the works that can help bridge those gaps, including the Beauport Gloucester hotel project, and — perhaps more significantly — the quest to fill the city-owned I-4, C-2 site.

But as the city weighs its I-4, C-2 options and perhaps considers other projects, like existing businesses’ expansions, officials need to ask an important question: Will these or other projects create jobs not just for new scientists and others who may move in from outside the area, but for local residents who remain out of work, and need help?

Though it’s unclear the level of direct cause and effect the timing of the June report coincides with the 60-day mark after NOAA’s dire cuts in fish landing limits on the Gloucester waterfront took hold. And it seems certain that those limits are now fueling an even deeper economic disaster – recognized by the federal Department of Commerce in the northeast groundfishery — with documented job losses.

But it’s time that state and federal officials accelerated their push for aid to the fishing community, and that local officials work to address the increasingly urgent need to support local businesses and encourage more development as well.

These are numbers Cape Ann cannot afford to repeat in 2014.

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