2016 State of Working Massachusetts

Massachusetts has seen significantly stronger job growth in the current recovery than we did in the recovery from the recession of 2001. In that recovery, we never regained all of the jobs lost during the downturn.1 Over the past seven years, Massachusetts has regained all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession—and then some. We now have 7 percent more jobs than at the start of the most recent recession.

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This is significant job growth considering that the Great Recession was the worst on record for the U.S. since the Great Depression in terms of the peak share of jobs lost. By this measure, the bottom of the downturn was reached in October of 2009, at which point the U.S. had shed 6.3 percent of the jobs it had in December 2007, the official start of the recession.

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While many workers experienced deep economic struggles during this recession and post-recession period, our state’s workers have seen stronger job growth during the subsequent recovery period than most workers around the nation. As mentioned, employment levels are higher today than they were before the Great Recession; in fact, the Massachusetts economy now has 260,000 more jobs than it did when the recession officially began in December 2007.

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This job growth has begun to translate into real wage gains for most workers in our Commonwealth in the past year, as seen in the uptick of median wage growth (see chart, below). This is good news. As labor markets tighten employers need to compete more aggressively to attract and retain workers—boosting wages. This is likely what has happened in our state over the past year.

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Massachusetts has seen strong employment growth in a number of higher wage sectors (see chart, below). Job growth in higher wage sectors also helps to create a higher wage economy.

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Looking at unemployment, we see that Massachusetts levels are lower than the U.S. average (see chart, below). Indeed, unemployment in Massachusetts is now at its lowest point since 2008.

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In part, this reflects the high level of education of the Massachusetts workforce. More educated workers are less likely to be unemployed than are workers with only a high school diploma or less (see chart, below).

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Our Commonwealth has fared better than most other states during this post-recession period. With a highly-educated workforce, our state is attractive to higher wage employers. And our state has enacted worker friendly policies, such as raising the minimum wage and creating an earned paid sick time law that have helped deliver greater economic security for working families. Yet, after decades of weak wage growth across the country there is much more that could be done to create an economy that delivers broadly shared prosperity (read more about such policy options here).

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1The National Bureau of Economic Research, US Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions.