GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 26, 2012

Job figures raise new red flags

Wire and Staff Reports

From Staff and
Wire Reports

---- — Despite losing 1,100 jobs, the state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in November at 6.6 percent.

Approximately 230,200 Massachusetts residents were unemployed in November – up slightly from October. Massachusetts employers have added 46,600 jobs since November 2011, the state reported. And according to preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, November’s job losses follow a gain of 11,900 jobs during October – 4,000 more than originally reported, according to the Executive Officer of Labor and Workforce Development.

But those figures did nothing to revise Gloucester’s October unemployment rate of 7.1 percent — the third straight month of increase in the city’s jobless rate figures, according the labor and workforce development figures. And while the October figures for Manchester and Essex also remained the same — at 5.3 and 4.3, respectively — Rockport’s revised October unemployment rate was boosted to 5.7 percent, compared to an initially reported rate of 4.8.

November unemployent rates for counties and indivudual cities and towns across the state are due from the Office of Labor and Workforce Development at the endo of this week.

The state’s 6.6 percent November jobless rate remains below the state’s 7 percnet figure posted in November 2011, just as Gloucester and other Cape Ann figures have – even as the city’s rate rose month to month in September and October — remained below the figures from comparable months of a year ago. Massachusetts’ statewide unemployment rate peaked at 8.7 percent in October 2009, and dipped to a recent low of 6 percent in May and June 2012; Gloucester’s jobless rate hit a four-year-low of 6.0 percent in August.

Yet the latest statewide labor and workforce development figures parallel localized statistics from the North Shore Workforce Investment Board (WIB) that show that the city’s economy has reached employment levels of where it was in 2007, before the worst of the recession. In the years following, Gloucester shed higher-paying manufacturing jobs and lower-paying retail and food service work filled the gap.

Those figures showed that, in 2007, an average 2,800 people worked in Gloucester manufacturing companies, according to an average monthly employment spreadsheet. But in 2011, according to year-long tracking data, that average had fallen to 2,350, meaning that, over five years, Gloucester lost 420 manufacturing jobs, a 15 percent decrease.

Over those five years, meanwhile, retail jobs in the city grew by almost 30 percent — or 365 jobs — according to the WIB. An average of 1,592 people worked in Gloucester retail stores in 2011.

In the new state figures, November job gains in trade, transportation, and utilities – which added 5,500 jobs combined – and growth in education and health services with 1,100 new jobs were offset by job losses in leisure and hospitality, government, construction, manufacturing, and professional, scientific and business services.

The new numbers point to “essentially nothing happening,” said Andre Mayer, Associated Industries of Massachusetts senior vice president for research. The bigger news, he said, was the revised job gain in October. “If that holds up that is a pretty good month.”

Significant losses in leisure and hospitality do not point to any trends because it is such a volatile sector, Mayer said. Manufacturing jobs losses do indicate employers are still cautious about hiring, taking a wait-and-see approach, he said.

“I suspect the decline in manufacturing — that may be partly a slowdown in exports, particularly because we export a lot of products to Europe,” Mayer said. “More important there is tremendous uncertainty out there.”

Many manufacturers are reluctant to add employees, he said, largely because of the uncertainty surrounding possible federal spending cuts and tax increases.

According to the data released Thursday:

The trade, transportation, and utilities sector has added 12,300 jobs over the year, with retail trade adding 7,500 jobs.

The education and health services sector has gained 3,000 jobs over the previous year.

Information gained 500 jobs in November and has added 3,900 for the year.

Mining and logging employment remained unchanged for the month and the year.

Leisure and hospitality lost 4,000 jobs in November – almost the same number it gained over the year at 4,100.

Manufacturing lost 2,600 jobs in November. Over the year manufacturing has shed 600 jobs.

Professional, scientific and business services lost 1,200 jobs in November, but has added 24,200 positions over the year.

Construction lost 500 jobs last month, bringing the total loss over the year to 2,200.

Financial activities lost 400 jobs during November, with the sector gaining 1,700 over the year.

Government lost 100 jobs and government employment levels are unchanged over the year.