Jobless rate plummets in Attleboro area

By Jim Hand | The Sun Chronicle | May 26, 2015

More than 100,000 area residents now have jobs, causing local unemployment rates to plummet compared to a year ago.

Some communities have seen remarkable improvement in their jobs picture over the past 12 months.

Attleboro has gone from an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent in April 2014, to 4.2 percent last month. Plainville’s rate dropped to 3.6 percent from 5.1 a year ago. Rehoboth’s jobless rate is now 3.6 percent, compared to 5.2 percent a year ago.

All told, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, 101,838 people in the 10 communities in the Attleboro area were working in April. Last year, that number was 98,078, a gain of 3,760 jobs.

Economists caution that monthly rates can be deceiving because they are unadjusted to smooth out fluctuations such as season jobs.

Alan Clayton-Matthews, an economist at Northeastern University, said typically adjusting the rates adds 0.6 percent to them.

He also said some of the people listed as employed are only working part time, but want full-time jobs.

“Those people aren’t counted as unemployed, but they are under-employed,” he said.

Still, he said, the numbers compared to the unadjusted rates in April of last year show marked improvement.

The unemployment rate is now about where it was in 2008 before the Great Recession hit, he said.

Massachusetts has recovered from the recession faster than many states, Clayton-Matthews said, citing the state’s healthy mix of high-skill jobs, particularly in the technology field, as reasons.

Lower oil prices have also helped the Massachusetts economy because workers have more money to spend on other items, he said.

A nagging problem in the United States for years has been sluggish improvement in wages, but Clayton-Matthews said that might be about to change.

“I suspect there is finally some upward pressure on wages,” he said.

Withholding taxes in Massachusetts have been climbing, he said, and that could be a sign that wages are improving.

In the local area, Mansfield has the lowest unemployment rate, 3.4 percent. Attleboro and Norton have the highest, 4.2 percent each.

Massachusetts as a whole is also doing well.

The adjusted jobless rate for the state is 4.7 percent compared to 5.4 percent for the entire United States.

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