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Mass. unemployment rate drops to 4.5 percent

A sign reading, “We’re Hiring!” was seen inside of the Roche Bros. store in Acton October.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe staff

The state’s unemployment rate in February dropped to its lowest point in nearly 15 years, as the Massachusetts economy continued to expand.

The Massachusetts unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, the lowest since December 2001, as employers added 13,300 jobs in February, the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday.

At 4.5 percent, the jobless rate hit a benchmark that many economists say signifies that an economy is at near-full employment.

“The state’s economy is still on the growth path,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, an economics professor at Northeastern University. “It appears that the labor market is still improving. ... Many states would be jealous of our performance.”


However, other economic data suggest many workers are still struggling in an economy in which the nature and terms of employment has changed considerably. Tens of thousands of Massachusetts workers are still working part-time and wages for many remain flat.

Recent volatility in the stock market and slower global growth did little to drag down the company hiring in February.

The state added jobs in most industries, but the stalwarts of the local economy, the educational and health services, the financial sector and professional and scientific services, saw the largest gains, the state labor office said. More state residents felt optimistic about their opportunities to find work in February, with 6,700 workers reentering the labor force, according to the state.

And in a second positive development, US Labor officials revised the employment outlook in Massachusetts for January.

Initially, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the state had lost 2,500 jobs that month. But a revision issued Thursday had the state adding 1,200 jobs in January.

The unemployment rate in Massachusetts was 4.7 percent in January, officials said. The national rate was 4.9 percent that month.

Still, nearly 135,000 Massachusetts workers were in part-time jobs in 2015, even though they wanted full-time employment, more than double the number in 2007, Clayton-Matthews said.


Wages too haven’t recovered as they have after previous recessions. In the last quarter of 2015, wages declined by a 6.9 percent annual rate, compared with the previous three months of that year.

“We have a long way to go yet,” Clayton-Matthews said.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.