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Berkshire County Unemployment Rate Now Higher Than Mass. Statewide Average

WAMC file photo

According to state officials in Massachusetts, the unemployment rose to 6.7% in December, and for the Berkshires, the unemployment rate is now above the state average.

Although the numbers released by the State Executive Office of Labor and Workforce development are not seasonally adjusted, the Berkshires now face an unemployment rate at 6.6% That’s up half a percentage point from October and November, and the highest it’s been since February 2012.

However, Heather Boulger, Head of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, says that despite the loss of jobs from November to December, comparing the latest numbers to December 2011 paints a more hopeful outlook.

Boulger said that in the major labor markets throughout Berkshire County change from one year ago was either for the better or stayed neutral.

Steve Sheppard, a professor of Economics at Williams College, said that much of the slow growth in the Berkshires is due to the fact that because the area has a more localized economy, and is not as dependent on a single large business, Berkshire County was not hit as hard as other areas of the nation in the initial recession.

Sheppard also mentioned that decreased government spending and investment has also had an effect by preventing an economic stimulus.

Chris Geehern, an Executive Vice President at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, said that employer confidence remains low due to the uncertainty in Washington, and that has an enormous effect on hiring. 

Though Geehern said the first battle of the fiscal cliff when it relates to taxes has been settled for now, worries about sequestration and other spending cuts are on the minds of many. AIM’s business confidence index has shrunk from 55.2 in August, which is slightly positive, to 47.8 in December.

Geehern also mentioned that the Massachusetts economy to some extent depends on federal spending.

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported that across the state, most of the job gains were seen in the education and health services sector. Leisure and Hospitality and construction also saw gains. The most losses were reported in trade, transportation, and utilities sectors.

And Heather Boulger gave some advice for those that haven’t given up looking for work…

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