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New England News

Massachusetts Economy Grows At Strong Pace

WAMC file photo

Massachusetts is coming off the strongest year for job growth since 2000.  Even in Springfield, which has struggled to recover from the recession, there are signs of better times.

      As 2014 came to a close, the Massachusetts unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent, down from 5.8 percent in November and 7.1 percent a year ago.  The state’s unemployment rate is now the lowest since the summer of 2008 before the Great Recession hit.

      The state added 60,900 jobs in 2014, according to the December report from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  Robert Nakosteen, a professor of economics and statistics at UMass Amherst, called the job growth “impressive.”

      " Finally, I think we've reached escape velocity in our economy," he added.

       Massachusetts emerged from the recession faster than most other states and the nation as a whole. Since 2009, Massachusetts employers have added more than 200,000 jobs.

       "The tech sector is doing well," said Nakosteen. " Our most consistent sectors are health and education and they've done quite well over the course of the year. So, it is the old favorites that continue to do well for the state."

        All of the state’s employment sectors added jobs in 2014, with the lone exception being manufacturing which lost 2,000 jobs.  

         " I am surprised and disappointed at the loss of those jobs," said Nakosteen.

         The unemployment rate in Springfield fell to 8 percent in December. A year ago it was 10.5 percent.  Like the state as a whole, the Springfield unemployment rate is the lowest since before the recession.

         The Springfield labor force—the total number of people employed and those looking for work—grew by more than 1,000 people last year.  Economists consider a growing labor force to be a positive indicator.                

        The total labor force in Massachusetts grew by 83,000 people last year, the best increase since 1976.

          Kevin Lynn, acting director at the Future Works Career Center in Springfield, sees a pendulum swing in the job market, with companies facing more openings and fewer applicants.

          "The uncertainty of the recession is in the rear view mirror now and people who hunkered down in a job they know are coming out to take a look at other opportunities," said Lynn.

          As people change jobs, others looking for work will find more opportunities and perhaps higher pay.

          " If you have skills, it is an excellent  time to look for work," observed Lynn.

           The Massachusetts economy grew at an estimated annual rate of 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to a report released Friday by MassBenchmarks, the journal of  the Massachusetts economy published by the UMass Donahue Institute and the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

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