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Big job losses strike several key industries in Mass. as coronavirus continues to hit state economy

A nearly empty North Pleasant Street is seen in Amherst on April 30, 2020.
A nearly empty North Pleasant Street is seen in Amherst on April 30, 2020.Blake Nissen for the Boston Globe

Massachusetts has one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in the country, but the pandemic continues to take its toll on the job market, with at least 2,200 furloughs and permanent layoffs announced in the past two days by employers in key sectors of the local economy.

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst, facing a projected budget deficit of $169 million, said 850 workers, mostly dining hall workers and residence hall operations staff, would be put on indefinite furlough starting Sept. 13. The move affects 12 percent of the campus’s 7,100 employees.
  • The Canyon Ranch spa in Lenox filed notice with the state that furloughs for 228 workers have been extended.
  • Cape Cod Healthcare, which runs Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals, said 118 workers who had been on furlough will not be rehired.
  • MGM Springfield told 1,000 furloughed employees that they would not return to their jobs as its hotel remains closed and it operates with limited table games, reduced restaurant capacity, and not large gatherings such as concerts and conferences.

The job cuts underscore how hard it’s been for pivotal industries — leisure and accommodations, higher education, and health care — to rebound even as the closely watched seven-day weighted average of positive coronavirus tests stands at 1 percent, the lowest rate since the pandemic began. Those sectors, along with retail, bore the brunt of mass layoffs in March and April.

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The state’s unemployment rate, at 16.1 percent in July, is the highest in the nation, in part because hospitals, universities, and tourism-related businesses are struggling.

At UMass Amherst, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy detailed the financial hit the campus is taking after deciding to allow just 1,100 students to live on campus, compared with 13,000 in a normal year.

In a memo posted on the school’s website, he said losses for the fall semester include $67 million in housing and dining revenue, a projected $31 million decline in tuition revenue, and a $21 million reduction in other revenues, including grants. Meanwhile the school is spending a projected $13 million on virus testing, safety, isolation, and quarantine measures, Subbaswamy said.

“While some permanent layoffs are expected in the coming weeks, we are doing everything possible to lessen the number of layoffs and are currently in discussions with other staff labor unions with the hope of reaching an agreement that prioritizes temporary reductions in hours and furloughs,” he wrote.

Canyon Ranch, where guests can spend thousands of dollars for weekends of yoga, hydrotherapy, and massages, said that while it remains committed to the Lenox spa, it would continue to keep many workers on furlough with benefits.

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“Any colleagues who received a notice this week were being extended on furlough, not laid off or terminated,” the company said in a statement.

Cape Cod Healthcare said it has brought back 477 of the 595 employees it furloughed in May as it gradually ramped up services that had been restricted, including elective procedures and outpatient and ambulatory care. But with patient volume still depressed, the health system has cut the remaining 118 full-time positions, including eight senior leadership positions

Cape Cod Healthcare said it would also extend a 10 percent salary reduction for senior executives through the rest of the fiscal year.


Larry Edelman can be reached at larry.edelman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeNewsEd.