Mass.'s Unchanged Unemployment Rate Could Belie August Market Turmoil

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Aug. 19, 2011

BOSTON — Despite anxiety about the national economy during the debt-ceiling talks last month, employers in Massachusetts added jobs, according to state labor data released Thursday.

The unemployment rate in Massachusetts held steady at 7.6% in July, a number that is unchanged for the past three months.

According to labor data, the state added nearly 13,000 jobs last month, most notably in education and health services; trade, transportation and utilities; and manufacturing. Construction lost jobs in July, but that's offset by year over year gains, says Northeastern University economist Alan Clayton Matthews.

"Construction went down this month, but has been up in recent months. So construction employment is up significantly for the year and year over year. But there are sectors that remain weak in the economy including home construction which is still at recession depths," Clayton Matthews said.

Overall, Clayton Matthews says Massachusetts is faring better than the rest of the nation.

“Our economy is growing faster. Our unemployment rate is much lower than the nation as a whole. So we have a much stronger economy, and the labor market is much stronger here than in the nation as a whole,” Clayton Matthews said.

The state’s 7.6% unemployment rate is well below the national average of 9.1%. Still, economists say there’s reason for caution. The July jobs picture doesn’t reflect the turbulence in the stock market over the past few weeks, and there’s a risk employers could become reluctant to hire again.

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