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Spring rebound after harsh winter for Mass., US economies

The Massachusetts economy shook off its winter doldrums and rebounded strongly in the spring, according to an analysis by the University of Massachusetts and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

The state’s economy expanded at annual rate of 4.9 percent in the three months from April through June, after contracting slightly between January and March, according to the report, published Wednesday in the UMass economics journal MassBenchmarks.

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“It’s a bounce-back,” said Daniel Hodge, an economist and managing editor of the journal. “It’s solid growth we’re seeing overall.”

The US economy also revived in the spring, growing at 4 percent annual rate after contracting 2.1 percent in the first three months of the year, the Department of Commerce reported Wednesday.

MassBenchmarks calculates the state’s economic growth four times a year. Its methodology, which analyzes a variety of economic data, has produced estimates that show stronger growth in Massachusetts than shown by official figures calculated by Commerce Department, which publishes state estimates annually. In 2013, UMass estimated the state economy grew 2.8 percent, compared to the Commerce Department estimate of 1.6 percent.

This spring, labor markets gained strength locally and nationally, the UMass report said, rebounding after an unusually harsh winter that slowed consumer spending and exports.

Massachusetts employment grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate in the second quarter, up from 1.2 percent in the first quarter, said Alan Clayton-Matthews, a professor of economics at Northeastern University who compiles and analyzes the data used in the UMass estimate.

Nationally, employment grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter, up from 1.5 percent in the first.

The unemployment rate in Massachusetts fell to 5.5 percent in June from 6.3 percent in March, the UMass report noted, while the US rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.7 percent.

Consumer spending in Massachusetts grew strongly in the second quarter. Based on an analysis of sales tax data, consumer spending increased at an annual rate of 7.4 percent, up from 6.1 percent in the first quarter.

Clayton-Matthews said the state’s economy faces challenges as a growing number of older, skilled workers retire and not enough younger workers with similar skills are available to fill those vacancies. He said that problem has become especially apparent in manufacturing, where many employers bemoan a shortage of skilled workers.

“They’re leaving in larger numbers than they’re being replaced with by younger workers,” he said. That shift “has already started, and the effect will be getting stronger as the years go on.”

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