GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 1, 2012

No alarms sound on jobless rate

By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — While the unemployment rates of Gloucester and two Cape Ann towns all jumped in September, the head of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce said that’s not a sign that the region’s economy is suffering.

Gloucester’s unemployment rate jumped from 6 percent in August to 6.5 percent in September as the city shed 63 jobs, according to the latest figures from Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, while Manchester and Rockport experienced similar increases. Only Essex saw its unemployment rate fall last month.

The September uptick primarily stems from a loss of seasonal jobs, said the Chamber’s chief executive officer Robert Heidt. Even with the .5 percent increase in the number of unemployed Gloucester residents tracked by the state, Heidt noted, the city is still below where it was this time last year.

This time last year, Gloucester’s September unemployment rate sat at 7.8 percent. Then, like now, the city’s unemployment rate sat above state averages, but the state average for September this time around was 6.4 percent. In August 2011, the city’s rate had been at 7.4 percent, marking virtually the same level of increase it did from last August.

Heidt said having that number down from where it was in 2011 – as has been the case throughout the year — means that Cape Ann is showing signs of economic growth. In Gloucester and the surrounding towns, Heidt said, new shops have opened and businesses had a strong summer season.

This year, he said, the summer season started earlier, and businesses stepped up in hiring, albeit gradually.

“I think it’s been more gradual,” Heidt said.

Heidt said he’s seen that most clearly in Essex. After the three year reconstruction of Route 133, business in town has picked up, he said. The town bucked the trend for the rest of Cape Ann, and saw it’s unemployment rate drop from 4.5 percent in August to 4.3 percent in September.

The town, he said, has fought hard to bring visitors back to shops and restaurants along the roadway.

“They’ve been doing great as a town drawing traffic into the community,” Heidt said.

Rockport, said Heidt, experienced an uptick similar to Gloucester’s. The town’s unemployment rate rose from 4.4 percent to 4.8 percent in September. In September 2011, Rockport had a 6.1 percent unemployment rate.

Manchester is a different story, said Heidt.

As reported in Monday’s Times, that town’s unemployment rate rose from 4.9 percent in August to 5.9 percent in September, nearly a percentage point above Manchester’s rate was in September 2011 as well.

Heidt said he’s not sure why the rate jumped in Manchester, but he noted that the state’s unemployment numbers don’t factor whether those losses are from companies down Route 128 or locally based.

He added that the Chamber is working on compiling its own database of employment numbers across Cape Ann.

Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or sfletcher@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.