MassBenchmarks board sees ‘mixed signals’ in Mass. jobs data
THE MASSBENCHMARKS editorial board said its optimism for the Massachusetts economy is 'decidedly cautious,' with household survey data indicating employment in the state may not be as strong as suggested in payrolls data. MassBenchmarks reported last month that the Massachusetts economy grew at an annual rate of 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, and projected a 4.7 percent growth rate through the second quarter of this year.
HADLEY, Mass. – Improved national and global economic conditions, encouraging local job growth figures and a strengthening housing market are among the signs indicating an optimistic outlook for Massachusetts going into 2014, according to the editorial board of the MassBenchmarks economic journal.
Preliminary estimates indicate that Massachusetts created more than 50,000 jobs in 2013, most notably in the construction industry. However, the federal budget sequester has continued to negatively affect the Bay State’s leading technology and research institutions, the board said, and household survey data suggesting a weaker employment picture than shown in the payroll data gives cause for caution.
“The challenge of income inequality, an increasingly pressing issue for the nation, faces the Commonwealth as well and may be part of the explanation for the mixed signals we are seeing in the employment data,” the board wrote in a summary of the discussion held at its Feb. 7 meeting.
The state’s economic outlook appears positive, bolstered by increased fiscal stability in the international markets of Europe and Asia, but a high unemployment rate (7 percent in December, compared with the national rate of 6.7 percent) and a lack of quality job opportunities for the young, the poorly educated and the long-term unemployed remain areas of concern.
“While the board is generally optimistic about the near-term economic outlook for Massachusetts, this optimism is decidedly cautious,” the board stated.
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