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In New England, N.H., Mass. lead growth

2.3% gain in 2014 is slightly better than US economy’s rate

The Massachusetts economy grew 2.3 percent last year, tied for fastest in New England and slightly greater than the country as a whole, according to new data.

On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported that Massachusetts ranked 15th among the 50 states in terms of economic growth last year.

North Dakota, in the midst of an oil boom, had the fastest-growing state economy, surging by more 6 percent — nearly triple the US growth rate of 2.2 percent.

Massachusetts nearly doubled its 2013 economic growth rate of 1.2 percent. In the Northeast, only New York's economy, which expanded 2.5 percent last year, grew faster than Massachusetts'.


In New England, New Hampshire's economy grew 2.3 percent; Rhode Island's, 1.2 percent; Connecticut's and Vermont's, 0.6 percent each; and Maine's, 0.2 percent.

Since the end of the last recession six years ago, Massachusetts has benefited from its strong technology and life sciences industries, which have added jobs, paid high wages, and attracted billions of dollars in investment.

Professional, scientific, and technical services, a sector that includes technology and biotechnology companies, and health care were the biggest contributors to economic expansion in Massachusetts last year, together accounting for one-third of the state's growth in 2014.

Those sectors also have driven job growth here, too, accounting for nearly half of the 60,000 net jobs created in Massachusetts last year.

Last year, 16,500 jobs were created in the health care sector, and 10,500 in the professional, scientific, and technical services field.

The Massachusetts unemployment rate declined to 4.7 percent in April, below the national average of 5.4 percent.

Shu Deng, a economist for Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pa., projected that the Massachusetts economy would continue to grow because of its educated workforce and its high-paying technology sectors.

She added that more people are not only entering the states' labor force to look for work — a sign of improving prospects in the job market — but they are also finding it.


The state's unemployment rate has fallen more than a percentage point over the past year.

Deng said the state's labor force is growing at rates not seen since 2000, around the time of the peak of the dot-com boom.

In the first quarter, the labor force grew by 2 percent, or an average of about 75,000 workers, from the same period in 2014, according to state statistics.

Deng noted that those new workers are consumers too, spending money on goods and services and supporting the businesses that provide them.

They are also increasing the demand for housing, raising sales prices and spurring developers to build more — as well as to hire more workers, Deng said.

Construction companies added about 4,000 jobs in 2014, an increase of approximately 3 percent, according to state statistics.

Real estate investors "are going to become more optimistic, so they'll add a supply of houses to the market," she said.

"That's definitely beneficial," Deng added.

Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.