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Massachusetts job opportunities, unemployment rate increases


The Massachusetts unemployment rate has increased from 3.1 percent to 3.2 percent in January, according to a press release from the state’s Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

This increase comes after the state reached a 15-year low in the unemployment rate, The Daily Free Press reported on Sept. 20.

Despite the increase in unemployment, 13,000 jobs were added in the state in the same month and Massachusetts’s unemployment rate for January was under the national rate of 4.8 percent, according to the release.

Ronald Walker, secretary of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, said in the release that in light of the increase, Massachusetts continues to perform well in terms of maintaining a low unemployment rate and job growth.

Charles Pearce, spokesperson for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, said the increased unemployment rate is due to a rise in the labor force participation rate, which includes those who currently have jobs and those who are unemployed and actively looking for jobs.

“[The labor force participation] rate is calculated against, or alongside of, the job creation rate,” Pearce said. “In this case, it’s a 0.1 percentage increase over the last months, which explains the jobs addition, yet the unemployment rate increase. This happens from time-to-time both nationally and statewide.”

Pearce said although the unemployment rate increased, this isn’t particularly troubling because it’s more important to look at the overall trends in unemployment rather than the monthly trends.

“[The statistic of] 3.2 percent, which is about the last six-month average of the unemployment rate, it’s fairly historically low for Massachusetts,” Pearce said. “Last year, since all of 2016 has been revised, Massachusetts had a substantial drop in unemployment.”

These numbers show Massachusetts’s economy is growing, said Andrew Farnitano, a spokesperson for Raise Up Massachusetts, a grassroots coalition made up of various organizations, groups and unions, working toward improving Massachusetts’s economy and conditions for workers.

“The increase in the unemployment rate this month was due to more people entering the economy, so Massachusetts is still working to dig out of the economic hole that the recession put us in,” Farnitano said.

Farnitano said the minimum wage increases that Massachusetts has implemented over the past three years has contributed to the relatively low unemployment rate in the state.

“We’ve seen unemployment drop, we’ve seen the number of jobs in the state drastically increase,” Farnitano said. “There’s clear evidence here and around the country that when we put more money in the pockets of working people, they spend that money in the local economy and that creates more jobs and lifts the economy for all of us.”

As a result of the minimum wage increasing in Massachusetts, those affected by the recession have been able to reenter the job market, explaining the increase in people entering the economy, Farnitano said.

“Because of the growing economy and the increase in minimum wage, we’ve seen more competition for employees by employers and that’s helped to draw more people into the labor market, which is good in the long term,” Farnitano said.

Several Boston residents said while the unemployment rate has increased, there are still many opportunities to find a job in Massachusetts, and were unconcerned by the statistic.

Katie Kantrowitz, 25, of South Boston, said the rise in unemployment is unexpected.

“Since the market has been increasing since [President Donald] Trump was elected, it’s kind of surprising that the rate in Massachusetts would go down,” Kantrowitz said.

Darryl Mack, 52, of Dorchester, said the low unemployment rate compared to the rest of the country shows that there are jobs available, but their availability varies across the state.

“I guess in some parts of the state, [job availability] is better than others,” Mack said. “It can’t be too bad to find a job because unemployment is down somewhat.”

Sarah Kemmer, 30, of South Boston, said that while it’s hard to get a job, there are a lot of jobs available in the market.

“There are jobs out there … but I think you have to change your perspective nowadays on what you might consider your ideal job to be or where you want to start out,” Kemmer said. “A lot of people have really high expectations especially when it comes to your salary, your benefits and whatnot, and sometimes you just have to start from somewhere.”

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Breanne is a former editor-in-chief and city news editor. She is a senior in the College of Communication and an oxford comma enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter @breannekovatch.

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