Employment growth in Massachusetts was substantial and fairly steady in 2013, but may have faltered in January, according to figures released today by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
The release includes preliminary results for January, showing a seasonally-adjusted loss of 4,500 jobs accompanied by a decline of 0.3 percentage points in the unemployment rate to 6.8 percent, close to the U.S. rate of 6.6 percent. The January data annually appear in early March rather than late February to allow time for revisions both to key population estimates and to the prior year data that provide baselines for reports going forward. (The report for February will appear on March 20.)
The retrospective changes to the data for 2013, which smooth out month-to-month statistical fluctuations in the original reports, show jobs gains in 11 months and no change in the other, with a net gain of 55,200, the most job creation since 2000. Professional, Scientific, and Business Services and Education and Health Services added the most jobs, while Manufacturing (-1,200) was the only sector shedding jobs.
- The Massachusetts economy has been doing pretty well. The reported January job loss may signal a slowdown, but it may just as well be statistical error from the survey or seasonal adjustment, or simply a result of bad weather.
- The monthly employment reports are eagerly awaited and avidly examined as reasonably current information on trends in the state economy, but they suffer from small sample size and show more fluctuation than is really there.
- It's increasingly clear that the household survey, which is the basis of the unemployment rate, is particularly unreliable. That survey shows much less job creation than the monthly survey of employers (the source of the data above), but the latter is consistent with the more accurate employment report based on unemployment insurance data, which is quarterly and appears with a considerable time lag.