"The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development today announced that Massachusetts has surpassed pre-recession job levels. With revised numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing more jobs were created in January than initially estimated, there are now 3,318,500 jobs in Massachusetts, compared to 3,304,300 in April 2008."
While some might accuse the state of spinning the results in its employment release, or at least burying the lead (only 500 jobs added in February), this was the right opening. The big story here is indeed that Massachusetts has (apparently) surpassed its pre-recession employment level, as a result of slow and unsteady long-term job creation over almost five years.
It's much more significant than the month-to month variations, some of which reflect the statistical weaknesses of a small survey sample and issues of seasonal adjustment. (Could the state really have added almost 20,000 jobs in January and almost none in February?)
The revised estimates show 18,900 jobs created in January, while the initial estimate for February is 500. The state's unemployment rate was 6.5 percent in February, down from 6.7 percent in January. The national rate was 7.7 percent. Massachusetts added 57,600 jobs during the past year.
Regaining the pre-recession employment level is a landmark achievement in part because it never happened following the previous recession. The all-time peak employment in Massachusetts was 3,385,000 in January 2001; by the end of 2003 the state was down by 206,200 jobs, of which only 125,600 (about 61 percent) had been recouped by the next local peak in April 2008.
In the most recent downturn Massachusetts bottomed out in December 2009 with a loss of 136,000 jobs, but it has since gained 150,100 – which still leaves us down 66,500 from that all-time high 12 years ago.
The "Great Recession" from which we are still emerging was a bad one. For Massachusetts, however, it was not the worst in recent memory, nor is this slow recovery the most frustrating.