Bay State projected to return to pre-recession employment levels by mid-2014

By Jon Chesto | Boston Business Journal | December 5, 2012

We’ve got to wait until 2014 before employment in the Bay State returns to pre-recession levels. And after we get there, we’ll be staring at a dramatically different economy than the one we left behind in early 2008.

That’s the latest word from local economic guru Alan Clayton-Matthews. TheNortheastern University professor wrote the Massachusetts chapter of the new regional forecast released by the New England Economic Partnership this week.

Clayton-Matthews’ survey takes the industry trends out to 2016. Along the way, Clayton-Matthews expects we will have regained the 143,000 jobs we lost in the Great Recession by mid-2014. (He believes we’re nearly seven-eighths of the way there already.)

The state’s overall employment will have grown by nearly 5 percent, from the start of 2008 to 2016. But the state’s industrial structure won’t look like it did before the Great Recession, and the changes don’t bode well for many blue-collar workers. At one extreme, the number of jobs in the education and health services sector is expected to be 14.5 percent higher in 2016 than it was in 2008. At the other extreme, manufacturing employment will be down by more than 8.7 percent.

There will be other winners and losers. The professional and business service sector and the leisure and hospitality sector will be important engines for job growth, each expanding by more than 10 percent from 2008 to 2016. Meanwhile, financial industry jobs will have fallen by 3.2 percent, and the state will have lost 7.2 percent of its construction jobs.

In many cases, most of the damage has already been done, Clayton-Matthews says. For example, the state’s construction sector shed 25 percent of its jobs in the recession, and manufacturing jobs fell by 13 percent. In a way, Clayton-Matthews’ report offers some dim hope for future growth in these battered blue-collar sectors, because the final percentage drops won’t be as severe when 2016 finally arrives. The holes they fell into were so large, though, that even the strongest of economic recoveries probably won’t be able to make them whole again.

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