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Mass. jobless rate edges up in October

The state unemployment rate rose for the fourth consecutive month in October as the Massachusetts economy grew too slowly to absorb an influx of workers seeking jobs.

The unemployment rate increased to 6.6 percent last month, from 6.5 percent in September, as nearly 13,000 additional workers entered the labor market, theMassachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday. Employers added 7,900 jobs, but not enough to hold down the unemployment rate.

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The Massachusetts jobless rate has increased more than a half percentage point since June, when it was 6 percent. The state unemployment rate, however, remains significantly below the nation’s unemployment rate, which increased to 7.9 percent in October.

Economists have warned in recent months that the Massachusetts economy is slowing in the face of global economic slowdown and uncertainty about US tax and spending policies. Congress is now trying to reach a compromise to avoid a combination of steep tax increases and deep budget cuts known as the fiscal cliff.

“Although the October [job creation] numbers are a pleasant surprise, it’s not an indication that now the economy has picked up steam again and there’s nothing to worry about,” said Northeastern University economics professor ­Alan Clayton-Matthews. “I’m still concerned the economy is growing slowly.”

The data used to calculate job growth and unemployment can be erratic and are subject to revisions by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Officials lowered reported job gains for September to 2,700 in Massachusetts from the 5,100 initially reported a month ago.

Massachusetts has regained about 94,000, or 66 percent, of the 142,000 jobs lost in the last recession.

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October’s biggest gains came in professional, scientific, and business services, and in construction, which each added 2,400 jobs. Professional, scientific, and business services include technology, research, and consulting firms.

Financial services gained 1,700 jobs, and education and health services added 1,300. Manufacturing added 400 jobs, and information, which includes software and other technology firms, added 200.

The US government added 500 jobs in Massachusetts in October, and state government payrolls increased by 200 jobs. Local government lost 300 positions. In the past year, government has shed 1,500 jobs.

The trade, transportation, and utilities sector also lost 700 jobs. Leisure and hospitality shed 200.

Although the Massachusetts economy has slowed, as long as employers are creating jobs, “we’re still ahead,” said Andre Mayer, senior vice president for research at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a business group.

Mayer said employers who had put off hiring in recent months are again taking on new employees and expanding their workforces. He also noted that the job creation numbers do not include the employers who are filling existing jobs vacated by retiring workers.

“Long-term, slow growth, even slow and unsteady growth, does create jobs,” he said. “I think the job market is actually improving.”

Megan Woolhouse can be reached at mwoolhouse@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @megwoolhouse.
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