GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 28, 2013

Jobless rate for city tops '11 marks

By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The city of Gloucester’s unemployment rate jumped by nearly a full percentage point in December to 8.8 percent, well above the state’s 6.6 percent mark.

And the December jobless rates for Gloucester and two of Cape Ann’s three towns all rose to figures higher than their marks for December 2011, reversing what had been a nearly year-long trend that had suggested the city and the region were making positive strides on the jobs front.

Only Essex finished December and thus the calendar year with a better unemployment figure than in December 2011, with a mark of 5.9 percent compared to 2011’s December mark of 6.1.

The December figures for cities and towns released Friday by the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development showed that Gloucester’s rate of 8.8 percent marked a jump of more than 11 percent upward from the city’s November jobless rate of 7.9 percent. And it proved higher than the December 2011 figure of 8.6 percent — the only time in 2012 that Gloucester’s unemployment rate had risen above the corresponding month from the previous year.

Among Cape Ann’s towns:

The Essex rate of 5.9 percent also marked a rise from the November unemployment rate of 5.4 percent despite placing below the December 2011 mark of 6.1. The 5.9 percent figure was also the highest since the town had a March rate of 6.8 percent. That trend also played out in Gloucester, Rockport and Manchester, all of which showed significantly lower jobless rates through roughly April to October due to seasonal changes and the tourism season.

Rockport posted a December and year-end jobless rate of 7.4 percent, up from the November rate of 7.2 percent and above the December 2011 rate of 7.0.

Manchester checked in with a December unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, up from a mark of 5.1 percent in November, and above the 4.9 percent mark that closed out 2011 in December of that year.

Gloucester’s jobless rate finished the 2012 calendar year on the upswing despite figures showing that the city had more people working than at the end of 2011 as well.

The state numbers listed Gloucester with 14,515 people employed, compared to 14,342 in December 2011.

But the city’s labor force, as documented by the Labor and Workforce Development office, rose to 15,911 by the end of December and 2012, compared to 15,822 in November, and up by more than 200 from the December 2011 and year-end mark of 15.697. And the hard number of unemployed in the city jumped from 1,245 in November to a December figure of 1,396, a leap of more than 12 percent.

The latest statewide labor and workforce development figures throughout 2012 have paralleled 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.