By Ray Lamont
---- — Gloucester’s recognized unemployment rate for the month of August fell below the state’s average jobless rate for the first time in a year, new state statistics show.
But the city’s positive drop — from a July rate of 7.3 percent to an August mark of 6.7 — came through declines in all three of the report’s columns: in the number of workers unemployed, in the city’s documented workforce and in the number of those working.
And Gloucester’s rate remained higher than the 6.4 percent who were listed as unemployed in August 2012, continuing a trend of four straight months in which the city’s rate has lagged behind the figures for the previous year.
The workforce figures raise what have long been red flags of regional and national workforce analysts, who note that the system of documenting jobless rates across the state and the nation fail to indicate people who are out of work but have used up their unemployment benefits and, therefore, do not even show up as part of the documented workforce.
Gloucester’s hard numbers for August show that 1,057 local workers were unemployed, an improvement of roughly 9 percent from the 1,166 who were listed as being on the unemployment lines in July.
But the same statistics also show an unexplained decline in the city’s labor force, from 15,956 in July to 15,825 in August, with a slight drop in the number of employed workers also, from 14,790 to 14,768.
The new unemployment statistics were released Friday by the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and show improvement from July to August for all four of Cape Ann’s communities as the summer seasonal business and tourism season wound down toward Labor Day. The figures also show all four Cape Ann communities below the state’s August jobless rate, which fell from a July mark of 7.2 percent to August’s 6.8.
Essex’s unemployment rate fell by 18 percent from a mark of 5.7 in July to 4.7 in August. The new rate matched the town’s 4.7 jobless rate for August 2012, as well.
Rockport saw its jobless rate fall from 6.3 percent in July to an August figure of 5.6 percent. That new figure, however, remained well above the town’s 4.6 percent unemployment rate posted for August 2012.
Manchester’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell from a July mark of 4.9 percent to 4.0 percent, a 21 percent improvement and also below its August 2012 rate of 4.9.
All of the Cape Ann rates fell below the state average, despite the fact that the state rate for August also dropped, from 7.2 percent in July to the August figure of 6.8 percent.
The state’s Labor and Workforce Development reports — issued each month for the state, for each of its counties, and for all of its cities and towns — are based upon federal Labor Department figures that measure the number of people who are unemployed within the context of the documented workforce.
It’s because of that, however, that many state and national analysts have often raised concerns that a drop in workforce figures signals that, while far more people remain unemployed, many have fallen off the unemployment benefit rolls and are, therefore, no longer statistically tracked.
Like Gloucester, Cape Ann’s towns also show declines in their documented workforces between July and August.
Rockport’s fell from 3,841 to 3,806, Manchester’s from 2,753 to 2,723 and Essex’s from 1980 to 1,958.