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Mass. GDP recovers faster than national rate, report suggests

As the United States recovers from the Great Recession of 2008, the Commonwealth’s gross domestic product has seen more progress compared to the nation as a whole, according to two reports released on Thursday.

The national GDP, which is the value of finished goods and services within a territory’s borders, increased by 2.8 percent for the third quarter, according to a report from the U.S. Commerce Department, while Massachusetts saw a 3.5 percent increase, according to MassBenchmark, a Boston-based public policy research group.

“The best information we have today suggests that in the third quarter of 2013, Massachusetts grew faster than the U.S., and that’s definitely good news,” said Michael Goodman, co-editor of MassBenchmarks. “There are a couple of caveats with the data … but that said, it’s more reflective of how much more productive the Massachusetts economy is compared to the U.S.”

The state-to-nation disparity has been consistent all year with the Commonwealth showing higher GDP in all three quarters in 2013, according to the MassBenchmarks report, but both reports show consistent growth.

Withholding taxes, the interest rates for U.S. Department of the Treasury securities, the Bloomberg stock index for Massachusetts and motor vehicle sales taxes contributed to above average growth for the Commonwealth, according to MassBenchmarks.

While several economic sectors showed improvement, Michael Manove, professor of economics at Boston University, said there is still much for local governments and residents to pay for in order to sustain growth.

“We should fund our public schools generously … and we should support the amenities that attract highly-educated people to the Commonwealth,” he said in an email. “That’s a long run prescription. In the short run I doubt there’s much to be done. Skimp on public schools, skimp on amenities, skimp on health care and yes, skimp on taxes, and we’ll end up poor.”

Several areas including unemployment hurt growth in Massachusetts, but the housing market and the technology innovation sectors, which have been strengths that put Massachusetts ahead of the rest of the country, will likely show additional negative consequences in the future because of decreasing government funding, Goodman said.

“To an unusual extent, the economic fate of Massachusetts is in the hands of a few policymakers,” he said. “Usually, they’re important, but not as important as they recently have been, and as a result we’re stuck. We need some action in Washington and here in Massachusetts to manage the problems we have … and several areas on the innovation sector have not been able to do as well as they could with cutbacks and indecision in government.”

The most recent data for both the country and the Commonwealth show the unemployment rate — something both reports outline as an important factor in the economy’s well-being — at 7.3 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively. However, the state data is dated back to August due to delays related to the federal government shutdown.

Until definitive numbers come in, much of the data, while mathematically adjusted according to past trends for Massachusetts numbers, cannot be taken as a purely accurate representation of the state of the economy, Goodman said.

Several residents said they have noticed overall growth in the Commonwealth, but not everyone has been included in the growth.

“I’ve personally been laid off twice this past year, and many of my friends are also still struggling,” said Olivia Harris, 19, of Dorchester. “At the same time, I have heard a lot of others areas are doing better than they have in years. It seems that overall we’re doing better, but certain parts [of Massachusetts] are just being left behind to fend for themselves.”

Kelsey Green, 22, of Brighton, said she has noticed more opportunities in Boston in the past year.

“Everything just seems easier now,” she said. “People seem to have it easier than even just two or three years ago. There are less money problems as a whole, people seem to be able to buy many of the things they want and I know most of my friends haven’t had any trouble with getting jobs. It definitely seems like good news for the area.”

Nick Moser, 26, of Brighton, said the numbers make sense because Massachusetts has rebounded well from the recession.

“Prices have increased and more people seem to have jobs, so there’s definitely some improvement,” he said. “Back when the recession hit, a lot of people, myself included, had a lot of problems and had a lot of worries about their future. Since then, everything’s gone a lot smoother, and it seems like we will continue to improve on into the future.”

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