The Massachusetts unemployment rate fell below 10 percent in September and employers added jobs for a fifth straight month, the Baker administration said Friday, though the pace of improvement continued to slow.
The jobless rate dropped to 9.6 percent last month from a revised 11.4 percent in August, according to the Department of Unemployment Assistance. It’s the lowest rate since the bottom fell out of the job market in March because of the coronavirus, and is down from the pandemic peak of 17.7 percent in June, when Massachusetts had the highest rate in country.
Employers brought on 36,900 workers in September, compared with a revised gain of 62,500 in the prior month, the state said. The August count was bumped up from a previously reported 51,600 jobs, the state said.
Over the past 12 months, unemployment has averaged 8.1 percent. But the rate was 13.6 percent for Hispanic and Latino workers, 10.9 percent for Black workers, while it was 7.4 percent for white workers. The discrepancies have been driven by bigger job losses in businesses where people of color make up a higher percentage of workers, including restaurants, hotels, and retail.
So far, Massachusetts has added back nearly half of the 690,000 jobs that disappeared in March and April. But the rate of job creation has slowed in each of the past three months, and more data on claims for unemployment insurance show a pickup in layoffs as well as an increase in the ranks of the long-term unemployed.
The same trend is playing out across the country, as employers grow more cautious amid a new surge in COVID-19 cases and the failure of Congress to agree on additional economic stimulus. The national unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in September.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics isn’t scheduled to release data on jobless rates for each state until Tuesday. But individual reports from other hard-hit states show a range of improvements. In Nevada, which had the highest rate in the country in August at 13.3 percent, unemployment dropped to 12.6 percent last month. New York saw a big decline, to 9.7 percent from 12.5 percent in August.
The September hiring gains in Massachusetts were led by the accommodation and food sector, which added 9,700 jobs, and health care, with a gain of 8,500. Employment in retail rose by 5,600. Government was the only sector to shrink, with employers shedding 12,300 jobs.
Here is a comparison of key employment statistics for September versus February, the last month before pandemic-induced layoffs began:
Unemployment rate: 9.6 percent vs. 2.8 percent
Persons employed: 3.42 million vs. 3.73 million
Persons unemployed: 365,000 vs. 107,000
Labor force: 3.79 million vs. 3.81 million
Participation rate: 66.9 percent vs. 67.9 percent