Massachusetts added only 2,600 jobs in January but the unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a point to 5.1 percent, a point below its level of last January, according to a preliminary report released today. The state unemployment rate is at its lowest level since May 2008.
Although the U.S. has seen consistently high levels of net job creation during the past year, the nation’s unemployment rate remains above the state’s: 5.7 percent in January and 5.5 percent in February.
Employment grew over the year in all sectors except Manufacturing (-1.0%). The largest gainers by percentage were Construction (+3.8%) and Information (+2.6%); by jobs added, Education and Health Services (+16,800) and Professional, Scientific and Business Services (+12,800) led the way.
Total employment in Massachusetts is at an all-time high, and the unemployment rate is at a level last seen before the Great Recession (although the economy was weakening in May 2008). Alternative measures of unemployment counting involuntary, part-time and discouraged workers are likewise at or near pre-recession levels.
The major remaining “deficits” are overall workforce participation, partly attributable to aging, and wages, which have had weak growth at best. The signs point to labor shortages ahead, and upward pressure on pay – especially in a state like Massachusetts with relatively slow population growth.
State reports will “catch up” with the national data next week, when we will see a Massachusetts report for February incorporating annual revisions. The revisions will show somewhat lower job growth (60,700 versus 68,000) and lower monthly unemployment rates in 2014 compared to initial reports. The household survey, the basis of the unemployment rate, shows a gain of 97,800 jobs on the year.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics develops the national and state data; the Massachusetts report is released by the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.