Cape Ann employment remains very strong

Nearly 600 more Cape Ann residents were working at the end of 2016 than at the close of the previous year, the state’s latest local job statistics show.

What’s more, the city of Gloucester ended the calendar year with a jobless rate below 4 percent for the first time in at least a decade, according to the December jobs report from the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

The figures show Gloucester with an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, up from a 3.3 percent rate at the end of November. But the city’s jobless rate stood much better at year’s end than the 6.9 percent posted at the close of December 2015.

The percentages are backed by figures showing 14,823 Gloucester workers were on the job in December, up from 14,772 in November of last year and up by 412 from the 14,411 who were working in December 2015.

The year-over-year totals parallel those reported in Cape Ann’s towns, with Rockport showing a gain in the numbers of those working from from 3,318 in December 2015 to 3,418 in December of 2016, while Essex and Manchester showed gains of 50 and 24 workers.

The state’s monthly reports are based on federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, and measure joblessness by where workers live, not necessarily where the jobs are. A Gloucester resident who works in Beverly, for example, would be counted in Gloucester.

Yet the latest Gloucester totals mark the fourth consecutive month in which Gloucester’s unemployment rate has come in below the 4 percent mark — a percentage it had never touched in any month over the last nine years.

Ken Riehl, CEO of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, said there seems no question that one of the driving forces has been last June’s opening of the Beauport Hotel Gloucester, which generated an estimated 200 full and-part-time jobs, and the revitalization of other properties downtown, including the openings of the restaurant Tonno in the West End position, and The Brass Monkey gift and antique emporium in the 85 Main St. space that had once housed Palazola’s Sporting Goods.

Riehl said he’s not certain the current jobs figures are a sign of a new norm.

“But it certainly could be,” he said. “The businesses are certainly doing well. The real telltale signs will be how we seem to fare for January and February, when things really slow down.

“But the fact that our employment is a few full percentage points over where we were a year ago is certainly impressive,” he said, “and it’s a sign we are certainly heading in the right direction.”

Among Cape Ann’s towns:

Rockport’s jobless rate rose from 2.7 percent in November to 3.1 percent in December, through that figure ranked far below the town’s 2015 year-ending rate of 5.7 percent. The new showed a drop in the numbers of unemployed from 201 in December 2015 to 111 at the end of 2016.

Manchester posted an unemployment rate of 2.4 percent, down from 2.7 percent at the end of 2015, with 2,688 people working in December 2016 compared to 2,664 at the close of the previous year.

Essex showed an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent for December 2015, up from a rate of 2.3 percent in November but again well down from 4.2 percent at the end of 2015. The number of Essex residents working rose to 2,091 — up from both 2,075 in November and 2,041 in December 2015.

The positive job figures across Cape Ann come along with a new report showing that workers across Essex County are earning more than their colleagues in other most other parts of the state.

The New England Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released data last week on employment and wages in Massachusetts, and found that workers in Essex County earn an average weekly wage of $1,054. That stands second only to those in Suffolk County, who posted the state’s highest average weekly wage at $1,571.

The report covered the 12-month period from June 2015 through June 2016 — well before the newly mandated $11-an-hour state minimum wage law took effect this past Jan. 1.

Staff writer Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com

Read the full article at GloucesterTimes.com.

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