Mass. unemployment rate climbs to 7 percent

Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- The Massachusetts unemployment rate climbed to 7 percent in June, the first time in more than a year-and-a-half it has gone that high, but preliminary federal estimates also showed the state continued to gain jobs, the office of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday.

The June jobless rate rose from 6.6 percent in May. It has averaged 6.7 percent over the past 12 months, officials said.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said Massachusetts added 2,800 jobs in June and revised its May estimates for added to jobs to 6,700 jobs that month, up from the 3,500 it previously reported.

Different surveys are used for calculating the unemployment rate and job growth in the state, which can explain why the numbers can often appear to be at odds. The unemployment rate is based on a telephone survey of households, while the jobs numbers derive from a separate survey of employers.

The state gained an estimated 20,500 jobs in the first half of 2013, according to Thursday's report.

"The overview is that we are still very encouraged and feel very positive about the Massachusetts economy," said state Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Joanne Goldstein.

A shrinking office vacancy rate in the Boston area, a strong housing market and growth in many industries around the state were cited by the secretary as signs of an improving economy. But she added that she was "perplexed" by the rise in the unemployment rate and would be seeking a further explanation from the federal agency.

"All of the indicators are that there are jobs available," Goldstein said.

The rise in the unemployment rate could also signal that more people have been encouraged to re-enter the labor market.

The last time the Massachusetts unemployment rate reached 7 percent was November 2011.