PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshire County unemployment rate dropped slightly to 6.4 percent in August, the lowest it's been since last November, according to figures released by a state agency on Tuesday.

Last month's numbers reflect decreases in the county's total labor force, number of people employed, and number of residents collecting unemployment compensation from July when the rate was 6.7 percent.

The state unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, according to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, just below the national rate of 7.3 percent.

Heather Boulger, executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, said she was glad the local rate fell in August, but noted it needs to fall much further to show significant improvement.

"We're glad that our small region continues to be below the state, but 6.4 percent is still way too high." she said. "Whenever you have more than 3,500 on unemployment it's still a concern."

The local figures released on Tuesday are not seasonally adjusted, which means they take into account seasonal construction jobs and positions in the travel and tourism industry.

The number of county residents receiving unemployment compensation was 4,626 in August, a drop of 331 people from July, and 583 fewer than in June, when that number was slightly more than 5,200.

The number of county residents receiving benefits last month, however, is about 100 higher than the 4,515 workers who were unemployed in August 2012.

The total Berkshire labor force numbers kept above the 70,000 mark for the third straight month, but dropped by nearly 1,500 workers in August to 72,042.

"It typically means that people are either leaving the area or are so disgusted that they're giving up on the job search," Boulger said, referring to the drop in the county's labor force.

"It's not bad for August," which is a significant part of the summer tourism season, Boulger said. But she said the county's labor force is usually higher at this time of the year. It was well over 73,000 in August 2012.

Unemployment also dropped in all three Berkshire labor market areas in August. The biggest drops occurred in Great Barrington and Pittsfield where the jobless rate in each area declined four-tenths of a percentage point.

In the county's two cities, unemployment in Pittsfield dropped slightly to 7.2 percent, while it remained the same in North Adams at 8.1 percent.

Statewide, the seasonally unadjusted rates dropped in 20 of the state's labor market areas in August, increased in one area, and remained the same in another.

Also on Tuesday, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development received $11.67 million from the federal government to support programming that aims to increase employment and reduce recidivism among formerly incarcerated individuals.

Boulger said the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board has not received a portion of that funding from the state yet, but will probably be given a chance to apply for it.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.
On Twitter: @tonydobrow

Berkshire County unemployment

2013

Month Percent

August..............................6.4

July.................................. 6.7

June.................................7.2

May .................................6.8

April.................................6.7

March..............................7.2

February..........................7.1

January............................7.9

2012

December........................6.9

November........................6.2

October...........................6.2

September......................6.5

August............................6.2

Source: Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.