Current Employment Picture

Mar 27, 2015 by

Barnstable Patriot Column # 126
Written By: David Augustinho

Current Employment Picture

The employment numbers for February are available so I think that this is a good time to check our employment picture and see how we are doing.

I usually look at two sets of data as I form opinions about our employment numbers. One data set is the employment figures for the Workforce Area, which includes Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket Counties. I also look at just Barnstable County to see how the Cape is performing.

For the month of February the Workforce Area unemployment rate is 9.2%, which is the same rate as January. In February of 2014 the area unemployment rate was 10.8%.

So you can see that our employment picture for 2015 is significantly better than 2014. If we look at the number of people working we see that 5,000 more people are working this year. The number of workers who are unemployed has dropped from 12,706 in 2014 to 11,173 in 2015, a decrease of over 1,500 people.

Also of note is the fact that our labor force has grown, we added about 3,500 workers to our February 2015 labor force over the previous year. That increase usually indicates that more people have a positive impression of their opportunity to find a job.

If we look at each of the counties in the region the unemployment rate varies, as you would expect, between the two islands and the Cape. Martha’s Vineyard’s unemployment rate in February was 11.7%, down from 13.7% in 2014. Nantucket’s rate was 12.2%, down from 13.8% in 2014, while the unemployment rate for Barnstable County was 8.8% in February, down from 10.4% in 2014.

The good news is that the data is consistent. From 2104-2015 in each part of our region the improvement is between 1.5 and 2 percentage points. This shows that there is structural improvement; the entire regional economy is participating in job growth at about the same rate, even though the raw numbers show much higher unemployment in the more seasonal areas.

Of course there is a wide range of raw numbers across the Cape also. For example the town of Sandwich has an unemployment rate of 6% in February of 2015, down from 7.3% in 2014. Heading down Cape the February rate for Barnstable was 7.5% this year and 8.9% last year; Eastham’s current rate is 10.4%, down from 12.6% in 2015; and finally Provincetown’s 21015 unemployment rate is 28.6%, down from 34% for the same period last year.

You can see that we still have pockets of highly seasonal employment on the Cape, but in general it is a much more year round economy than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

The downside to this positive employment picture is that with lower unemployment rates it will mean that our seasonal businesses will have a tougher time finding employees. The past two tourist seasons have been very busy and we are expecting that to continue.

I am looking forward to updating our employment picture toward the end of our summer season and also recapping the entire year when the December 2015 numbers are available.

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