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Baker establishes unemployment task force

Governor Charlie Baker established a task force Thursday targeting chronic unemployment among members of minority groups, veterans, and people with disabilities.

The group, which includes Cabinet secretaries, business leaders, nonprofit leaders, and educators, has until mid-November to recommend approaches to a stubborn problem, giving the administration time to incorporate its ideas in the annual budget proposal it will file in January.

“The numbers have been the numbers for a really long time here,” Baker said. “And it’s pretty clear that doing nothing other than what we’ve been doing doesn’t really get us anywhere.”

Last year, according to the state, the overall unemployment rate was 5.8 percent. But among black people it was 10.8 percent and among Latino people it was 10.9 percent.


The task force on Economic Opportunity for Populations Facing Chronically High Rates of Unemployment, formed by executive order, is the second major economic development initiative Baker has announced in recent weeks.

Last month, he directed his labor, education, and housing and economic development secretaries to seek solutions to the so-called “skills gap;” some economists and employers say job seekers in the state and beyond do not have the skills required to fill vacancies in an increasingly high-tech economy.

The work of the task force on chronic unemployment will inform the skills gap group, with state Labor Secretary Ronald L. Walker II chairing both efforts. Baker said Thursday that some programs like Year Up, which offers a year of training and internships for urban young adults, have had success. The state, he said, needs to identify worthy efforts and figure out how to scale them up and reach more people.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg
. Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe