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Robust growth in jobs, wages forecast in Mass.

The Massachusetts economy is creating jobs at its fastest pace in 15 years, pushing wages and spending higher and indicating solid employment growth in coming years, according to a forecast by a group of academic and business economists.

The New England Economic Partnership projects the state will add about 200,000 jobs from 2015 to 2018 and the unemployment rate, 4.7 percent in August, will fall to an average of 4.1 percent by 2018.

Overall wages and salaries, expected to grow 6 percent this year, are forecast to increase 5 percent a year through 2018 and fuel consumer spending, a major driver of the economy.

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“Massachusetts is experiencing a burst of economic growth reminiscent of the 1990s,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, a Northeastern University economics professor and an author of the report. The tech boom of the late 1990s fueled one of the most prosperous periods in the state’s modern history as the unemployment rate fell below 3 percent — until the dot-com bubble burst.

The forecast, to be released Thursday at a conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, predicts that the broader New England economy will also continue to improve. Unemployment in the region, now at about 5 percent, is expected to fall to 4.2 percent by 2018.

In a separate report on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said its survey of economic conditions found business activity increasing in New England, with manufacturers, retailers, and advertising and consulting firms reporting higher sales from a year ago. Home sales and prices were on the rise across the region, but hiring was mixed, the Fed said in the report, known as the Beige Book.

Job growth in Massachusetts and New England as a whole has been strongest in the business and professional services, leisure and hospitality, and education and health care sectors, according to the New England Economic Partnership.

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Unemployment in Massachusetts and New England is expected to remain below the US rate, which is forecast to slip to 4.6 percent in 2018 from an average of 5.3 percent this year.

Forecasters, however, warned that their projections could change significantly if China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, continues to slow; the strengthening dollar, which makes US goods more expensive overseas, hurts exports; and stock markets around the world continue to slide.

Such developments, the forecasters said, “can adversely impact the investment climate and threaten sustained growth in New England.”


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