Massachusetts unemployment rate rises to 6.6 percent in October, up from 6.5 percent in September

By Megan Woolhouse | Boston.com | November 15, 2012

Massachusetts’ employers added 7,900 jobs while the unemployment rate ticked higher for the fourth straight month to 6.6 percent in October, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday.

While the state added jobs, it did not add enough to absorb the number of people looking for work causing the unemployment rate to rise. Massachusetts unemployment rate has risen from a low of 6 percent in June, but remains significantly lower than the nation’s unemployment rate, which was 7.9 percent in October.

However, economists have been concerned that a global slowdown and uncertainty surrounding US tax policies will continue to weigh on the state’s job growth.

“Although the October numbers are a pleasant surprise, it’s not an indication that now the economy has picked up steam again and there’s nothing to worry about,” said Northeastern University economics professor Alan Clayton-Matthews. “I’m still concerned the economy is growing slowly.”

The data used to calculate job growth and unemployment, can be erratic and is subject to monthly and annual revisions by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Officials lowered September’s reported job gains to 2,700 in Massachusetts for September, down from the 5,100 initially reported a month ago.

Massachusetts has regained about 66 percent of the jobs it lost since the beginning of the recession, or 93,700 of the 142,400 jobs lost since February 2008.

October’s biggest gains came in the professional, scientific and business services sector, which added 2,400 jobs and in the construction sector, which also added 2,400 jobs. The financial sector gained 1,700 jobs and the education and health services sector added 1,300. Manufacturing also added 400 jobs and the information sector 200.

Though government has lost more jobs than it has gained over the year so far, the federal government added 500 jobs in Massachusetts in October and state government saw a 200 job increase. Local government lost 300 positions.

The trade, transportation, and utilities sector also lost 700 jobs. Leisure and hospitality shed 200.

Andre Mayer, senior vice president for research at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the state’s largest business group, said that although the Massachusetts’ economy has slowed, as long as employers are creating jobs, “we’re still ahead.”

Mayer said employers have put off hiring are now taking on new workers out of necessity. He also noted that the job creation numbers do not include the employers who are refilling jobs vacated by retiring workers. Mayer said many of those workers, as the economy slowly improves, are “no longer clinging to their jobs.”

“Long term slow growth, even slow and unsteady growth, does create jobs,” he said. “I think the job market is actually improving.”

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