The slow but steady growth of the Massachusetts economy in recent years has stalled in 2013, and it all but came to a halt in July, according to figures released Thursday by the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The state unemployment rate of 7.2 percent is the highest it has been in nearly two years, and the more infuriating aspect of this slowdown is that was in part triggered needlessly by Washington.
Weak economies in Europe and China, traditional markets for Massachusetts goods, are an unavoidable factor in the slowdown, but economists cite federal budget cuts, in particular the sequester, as major factors. It is axiomatic that when the private sector is struggling the public sector must provide the economy with a boost, but the thoughtless cuts mandated by the sequester farce have prevented the public sector from playing that role. There was no logic behind it, just Washington politics as usual, and states like Massachusetts, which depend heavily upon the education and high-tech sectors to provide jobs are hurt in particular.
The various job creation packages proposed by President Obama that were blocked by Republican opposition would have made a difference in the unemployment rate in Massachusetts and in the United States, which was at 7.4 percent in July. This should be kept in mind if the ideologues who both demand and prevent job growth try to pin the sluggish job market on the administration.
In other lousy economic news from Thursday, major retailers like Wal-Mart and Kohl’s lowered their annual forecasts because of sluggish sales, another product of a job market in which Americans who are employed aren’t getting raises and are worried about being laid off. Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics told the The New York Times that the upper echelon is thriving because of the strong stock market but there has been no trickle-down to the rest of America. Making life worse for average Americans is the behavior of many ideologues in Congress who seem determined to make their economic plight worse.