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Is Mass Headed for Another Jobs Slump?

Saturday, September 08, 2012


The U.S. added just 96,000 jobs in the month of August, bringing the national unemployment rate down a hair to 8.1 percent, according to data released Friday by the http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm" target="_blank">Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The results were a sobering reminder of the difficult economic recovery the country still faces as the presidential race heads into its post-convention stretch.

In a http://www.gallup.com/poll/157268/job-creation-gets-slight-boost-state-local-gov.aspx" target="_blank">Gallup report issued earlier this week, the research firm recorded a slight uptick in its U.S. Job Creation Index, moving up two points from July to +19 in August.

The report attributed the bump to increased hiring activity in state and local government, but public-sector job growth still trailed its private-sector counterpart by a wide margin.

How is Massachusetts Doing?

Bill Vernon, Massachusetts state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the slight ups and downs in job creation over the past several months have managed to keep pace with population growth but little else.

"It's just not going to get us anywhere economically," Vernon said of the underwhelming jobs numbers.

With a reported unemployment rate of 6.1 percent in July, Massachusetts is faring marginally better than the rest of the country.

Vernon was cautiously skeptical of the Gallup data in light of the dearth of job growth he has observed around the Bay State.

"If there's not hiring going on here, I'd be hard-pressed to find where it is going on," he said.

State jobs data for August will not be released for several more days, but from Vernon's vantage point with NFIB, growth in the Commonwealth has been isolated and inconsistent as of late.

Jobs in Massachusetts increased by 1,600 in July, an improvement over the decrease by 2,600 recorded in June, but still markedly less than the 7,500 jobs added in May or the 2,500 posted in April of this year.

Energy Jobs Up, Construction Jobs Down

No job sector has performed noticeably better than others in recent months, though Vernon said several local renewable energy are doing well thanks to a financial boost from the state.

According to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the Commonwealth added over 7,000 jobs at clean energy firms between July of 2011 and the same month this year, an increase of 11.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the state has seen construction jobs decrease by 4,000 this year.

Vernon said he did not believe Massachusetts would break out of its bumpy jobs cycle until the uncertainty surrounding taxes and healthcare costs gets ironed out.

"Those are major, major issues for most small business owners," he said.

Just knowing what tax and healthcare policies will be in 2013 may be more important for job growth and economic recovery than how they ultimately shake out.

"Certainty is important," said Vernon.

"The ability to understand what's coming forward in the future is important."


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