GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 26, 2012

Gloucester jobless rate tops 7 percent

Figure is back above state, county norms

By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Gloucester’s unemployent rate inched back up over the 7 percent mark in October, remaining below the rate for the same month of a year ago, but leaping farther above the overall state jobless rate and now rising above the Essex County rate for the first time in six months.

The city’s jobless rate for October was pegged at 7.1 percent, according to the latest figures from the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

That’s a leap of 9 percent from the 6.5 percent jobless rate reported for the city in September, which also marked an increase from August. Yet the new figure remains below the 7.6 percent unemployment rate reported for the city in October 2011 — and reflects the city’s longstanding trend of showing rising jobless rates and fewer jobs when the tourism season slows business on several fronts after Labor Day.

The city’s uneployment rate, however, also pulled farther above the state’s jobless rate of 6.2 percent – with the .9 difference representing the largest gap between Gloucester’s rate and the state’s since last January and February, when the city’s mark reached 10.1 percent during Gloucester’s tradtionally slowest season.

And Gloucester’s 7.1 percent figure ranged above the overall Essex County unemployent rate, which dropped from 6.9 to 6.7 percent between September and October despite a lingering 13.9 percent rate in Lawrence.

The unemployent rates for Cape Ann’s towns, meanwhile, presented a mixed bag for October, according to the state’s workforce development figures:

Essex maintained Cape Ann’s lowest jobless rate at 4.3 percent, holding steady after posting the same mark in September, and 30 percent better than Essex’s October 2011 mark of 6.3.

Manchester also saw its rate drop from 5.9 percent in September to an October figure of 5.3 percent, though the latest number remains higher than the town’s rate of 4.5 percent for October 2011.

Rockport, however, saw its jobless rate jump to 4.8 percent in October, up from a rate of 4.4 percent in September, but still stronger than the town’s October 2011 figure of 5.7 percent.

In Gloucester, the new rate reflects a jump of 9 percent — from 1,007 to 1,115 between September and October — in the actual number of workers who were unemployed, according to the state figures.

Curiously, the number of Gloucester residents employed also rose from 14,465 to 14,596. But that came with a jump in the city’s documented workforce from 15,472 to 15,711.

Massachusetts’ monthly Labor and Workforce Development reports — issued monthly for the state, for each county, and for individual cities and towns — track the number of unemployed within the context of the recognized work force. And analysts throughout the state and the nation have raised concerns that persistent declines in overall workforce figures can spotlight a gap in the reporting system that has no means of documenting people who are, in fact, still jobless, but who have fallen off the unemployment rolls and are no longer tracked statistically.

But the October figures marked the third consecutive month in which Gloucester showed a gain in its recognized workforce, though it’s not clear where the growing numbers of workers and jobs are coming from.

As reported in the Times earlier this month, five-year tracking figures compiled by the nonprofit North Shore Workforce Investment Board showed that, between 2007 and 2011, the number of retail jobs grew in the city by almost 30 percent; an average of 1,592 people worked in Gloucester retail stores in 2011, while accommodations and food service jobs rose by 20 percent over the last five years, adding 214 jobs.

Those same investment board figures, however, showed that an average 2,800 people worked in Gloucester manufacturing companies, but that average had fallen to 2,350 — a 15 percent decrease – by the end of 2011.