Massachusetts jobless rate drops to lowest since start of pandemic

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The state’s unemployment rate dropped last month by 0.4% to 4.3%, the lowest the rate has been since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials report.

Massachusetts also gained 186,400 jobs.

“The even better news is that jobs are coming back in the state’s hardest-hit areas,” said Jay Zagorsky, an economist at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. “Over the past year, the leisure and hospitality industry has gained more than a quarter-of-a-million — 272,500 — jobs, since people are again eating out in restaurants, staying in hotels and going to shows.”

The March unemployment rate of 4.3% was 0.7% above the national rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bureau’s preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts gained 21,000 jobs in March, following last month’s revised gain of 22,300.

The March labor force was up by 2,700 from 3,772,500 in February, with 18,000 more residents employed and 15,300 fewer residents unemployed, according to the state.

The labor force participation rate — the share of working-age population employed and unemployed — increased by 0.1 percentage point at 66.0%. The labor force was up 39,900 from the March 2021 estimate of 3,735,400, as 118,000 more residents were employed, and 78,100 fewer residents were unemployed.

The unemployment rate is based on a monthly sample of households. The job estimates are derived from a monthly sample survey of employers. As a result, the two statistics may exhibit different monthly trends.

The largest over-the-month private-sector job gains were in the professional, scientific, business services, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality sectors.

From March 2021 to March 2022, BLS estimates Massachusetts gained 186,400 jobs. The largest year-over-year gains were in the leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, business services; and education and health services sectors. Financial Activities was the only sector to see job losses.

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