Jobless rate in Mass. continues to inch upward

By Lauren Feiner GLOBE CORRESPONDENT JULY 20, 2017

The Massachusetts unemployment rate in June again inched upward, hitting 4.3 percent in a month where officials said employers added 10,000 jobs.

Since the beginning of 2017, the jobless rate in Massachusetts has steadily risen from 3.2 percent in January, even though nearly 63,000 more people now have jobs than six months ago, according to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

After outperforming the US economy as a whole on this important measure, the state’s jobless rate is now nearly even with the national rate of 4.4 percent.

But Northeastern University economics professor Alan Clayton-Matthews said the numbers do not suggest a worsening outlook.

For one, the strong economy had induced more people who had given up on finding work to begin looking for a job, and they are now counted among the unemployed.
The size of the labor force over the past 12 months has swelled by 121,400 workers, and while there are more jobs today, there are also more people officially unemployed.
Even though many employers report they have a hard time finding workers for open positions, the ranks of the unemployed are filled with people who either don’t have skills that are in demand or have trouble getting hired — they have spotty work histories, for example, or can’t speak English or have a criminal record.
Clayton-Matthews said the number of unemployed now, 160,400, is about the same as it was in 2007 before the recession.
He predicted unemployment rates will trend down in the 4 percent range, and employers will continue to struggle finding skilled workers.
“The state is likely to run out of workers very soon,” Clayton-Matthews said.
He also argued that earlier lower jobless rates in the 3-percent range probably overstated the situation because of data-collection issues.
Even so, with an overall strong economic outlook, Clayton-Matthews said he is surprised that wage growth hasn’t followed the trends.
“Typically when the unemployment rate gets this low, wage growth begins to accelerate,” he said. Flexible wage structures for gig economy workers, employer’s reluctance to increase costs, and a still recovering economy might help explain this, he said.
Most of the 10,000 new jobs added in Massachusetts in June were in the education, health services, transportation, and hospitality sectors.
The construction industry, professional, and business services and administration saw some of the largest reductions in the month.Jobless rate in Mass. continues to inch upward - The Boston Globe