Sept. report shows job growth slows
Patrick's turnaround claim challenged by Baker aides
Today’s unemployment report – the last before the November gubernatorial election – suggests the pace of recent job growth may be slowing.
The unemployment rate in September fell to 8.4 percent, down from 8.8 percent in August and way below the national rate of 9.6 percent.
But that good news was undercut by the disclosure that the number of jobs in Massachusetts declined by nearly 21,000 in September. State officials also reported that the previously reported 2,100-job gain for August was being revised to a 3,000-job loss for the month.
Aides to Charlie Baker, the Republican candidate for governor, say the new numbers shoot holes in Patrick’s claim of an economic turnaround. They say the state’s unemployment rate went down for two reasons: the size of the labor force increased slightly while the number of unemployed people declined because many either stopped looking for work or ran out of benefits.
Joanne Goldstein, the state’s secretary of labor and workforce development, said most of the September jobs loss was seasonal, coinciding with the end of a strong tourism season. She said all indicators suggest the state is headed in the right direction economically. She said the number of initial claimants for unemployment benefits is down and withholding tax payments are up. The state’s job growth rate is 1.2 percent over the December-September period, compared to .5 percent nationally, she said.
“It’s important not to look at just this snapshot, but the movie over the last seven to eight months,” Goldstein said. “We’re still way ahead of the rest of the nation.”
But it’s also worthwhile looking at the state’s job growth over a longer period than just seven to nine months. As can be seen in the accompanying chart, the number of jobs in Massachusetts, even with the recent uptick, is off 128,000 from its most recent peak in March 2008 and 208,000 below February 2001, when the state hit its highest job level in the last two decades.
Andrew Sum, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, spoke briefly about the state’s job trends at a MassINC board meeting on Wednesday. He said Massachusetts over the last decade has been one of the worst states in the country at creating jobs, even though it has a highly educated workforce. He says the lack of job creation is a contributing factor to most of the state’s societal problems.
“I am really worried about our state, our region, and the country,” he said.