July 7th, 2014
By Ray Lamont
The state’s latest labor and workforce statistics show that 472 more Cape Ann residents were holding down jobs when the current summer tourism season began than had been working at the same time last year.
The statistics, part of the May monthly unemployment statistics outlined by the state’s Executive Office of Labor & Workforce Development, parallel unemployment figures that showed that Gloucester joblessness had fallen to 5.4 percent in May, down by nearly two full percentage points from its April mark and the lowest rate posted for Gloucester in any month since the city hit the same 5.4 percent figure in May 2008.
But the May unemployment rate was also down by nearly two points from Gloucester’s 7.3 percent rate of May 2013.
The hard numbers behind those percentages show that, at the end of May — incorporating the seasonal landmark of Memorial Day Weekend — workers within Gloucester’s documented workforce held down 14,648 jobs, up by 80 from the April figure 14,568, but up by a full 305 from the May 2013 figure 14,343.
Similarly, the on-the-job totals for Rockport jumped by 74 from 3,498 in May 2013 to 3,572 this year, while Manchester’s and Essex’s workforces showed year-over-year May increases on the job of 54 and 39, respectively. Manchester’s employment number rose from 2,542 in May 2013 to 2,596 this spring, while Essex’s increased from 1,827 to 1,866.
The numbers correspond to the observations of Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ken Riehl, who had indicated that, anecdotally, member businesses had been reporting they were hiring at or above the staffing levels that carried through last summer, and that service businesses — inns, restaurants and the like — were booked solidly throughout the summer.
The increase on the jobs front is also borne out by sharp declines in the numbers of workers who were unemployed as Memorial Day helped bring May and the traditional spring visitor warm-up season to a close.
In Gloucester, the number of unemployed fell from 1,126 in May 2013 to 830 this year — a decline of 35 percent — while the number of Rockport workers recorded as jobless dropped from 247 in May 2013 to 147 in May of this year, a drop of 99 overall, or 41 percent.
The numbers vary for Cape Ann’s communities when it comes to identifying each of the workforces.
While Gloucester’s documented workforce essentially held the same from May 2013 until May of this year — rising by 8 from 15,469 to 15,478 — the number listed in the workforce in Essex jumped from 1,917 to 1,950, and Manchester’s rose from 2,682 to 2,720. But Rockport’s documented workforce number fell from 3,744 to 3,719.
Because state and federal figures only include a community or state’s documented workers, and the tracking system has no means to account for people who remain jobless, but who have fallen off the unemployment rolls, some analysts have suggested that those workers can account for, at least partially, a drop in the overall workforce.
But while acknowledging that nebulous figure is part of the picture, Ann C. Dufresne, communications director with the state’s Labor & Workforce Development office, told the Times that workforce numbers reflect a variety of factors, including those entering the labor force for the first time and those re-entering the labor force.
In that vein, she noted, Gloucester’s and Cape Ann’s employment statistics have continued to show an extended trend in the right direction largely because the drops in the number of unemployed has consistently outstripped any decline in the overall workforce.
Times Editor Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at email@example.com.