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Report: MA Weathering Economic Storm Better Than Most States

January 3, 2011

BOSTON - It's the first work week of a new year for Bay Staters, and a new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center finds that, since the beginning of the economic storm in late 2008, Massachusetts lost fewer jobs and maintained higher wages than most parts of the country, and did not have a sharp increase in the poverty rate.

Jeff Thompson, assistant research professor with the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, points to education as the primary reason.

"It's the role that education, that the educated work force, has played in driving economic growth and high incomes over the last several decades, but also to some extent the role that education has played in helping the state be somewhat resilient in the recent recession."

The report shows that, over the last thirty years, the share of college-educated workers has almost doubled in Massachusetts, and average incomes have grown more than twice as fast as in the nation as a whole. Thompson adds that a highly educated work force makes the region very attractive to firms, and high-quality public schools make the state attractive to people looking to move here for jobs.

While the state's unemployment rate sat below the national average at 8.2 percent in 2009, unemployment rates for workers with less education than completion of high school were seen at 17 percent and above.

Robert Tannenwald, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says that isn't necessarily a determining factor.

"It's true that not everybody is suited to college and not everybody wants to go to college, but that doesn't mean that they are doomed to a low-wage job. There are a whole host of programs and specialties that could be developed that will be in demand in the future."

Tannenwald says that while good-paying manufacturing jobs are not coming back to the U.S., jobs tied in with the environment, medicine and law will be in greater demand, and those workers without the needed skills or education will continue to be left behind.

The report, "State of Working Massachusetts 2010," is at

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA