Worst job losses in years – State official downplays preliminary August report
By Frank Quaratiello | The Boston Herald | September 21, 2012
The loss of 4,800 jobs in August marks the first time Massachusetts has shed jobs since November and the worst drop since July 2009, when 10,800 jobs were lost.
But the Patrick administration is taking a wait-and-see approach, hoping that future revisions of yesterday’s preliminary report will bring that job-loss number down and show “we’re continuing to head in the right direction.”
“When I look at the year to date as a whole and look back a few years, we’re in pretty good shape,” Joanne Goldstein, state Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, told the Herald. “We’re working with businesses. There are jobs out there. Of course, there’s always more to be done.”
Economists agreed yesterday that the dismal August jobs report doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The numbers for state employment and unemployment tend to be very noisy,” said Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren. “I would focus more on the longer-term trend. Overall, Massachusetts has a good story to tell. The rest of the country would like to be where we are.”
But the prolonged economic downturn, which the Fed acted aggressively last week to address by initiating a program to purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities per month, has meant that many people have given up looking for work.
“Labor force participation is flat or slightly down in Massachusetts,” said David Tuerck of Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute. “We’re not doing as badly as the rest of the nation, but it reflects that people aren’t even bothering to look for jobs.”
Northeastern University economist Alan Clayton-Matthews said the Massachusetts jobs numbers, which also show the unemployment rate rising to 6.3 percent from 6.1 percent in July, are “not good, of course.”
“The state’s economy has been slowing over the past several months,” Clayton-Matthews said. “The national economy is slowing and we will go along with it. I would expect very small job gains over the rest of the year.
“Households, like businesses, are pulling back and concerned about the ‘fiscal cliff,’ ” added Clayton-Matthews, referring to automatic federal budget cuts and tax increases that will occur early next year without a compromise deal in Washington, D.C.
While Goldstein said she had been hoping to report better jobs numbers yesterday, she added that summer can be a “quirky time” for employment data.
“I don’t want people to panic. Let’s wait and see what the revisions show,” she said.