PITTSFIELD -- Following two months of relative stability, the Berkshire County unemployment rate jumped half a percentage point in June to 7.3 percent, according to figures released by the state on Tuesday.
The good news is that county unemployment fell just a shade under the state's not seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 7.4 percent, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. It's the first time local unemployment has been below the state average since last October. The national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent.
The bad news is that Berkshire unemployment breached the 7 percent mark for the first time since March, and the fourth time in seven months this year.
Normally, the advent of the summer tourist season causes Berkshire unemployment to drop through the spring and summer. Berkshire unemployment was 6.6 percent in June 2012.
But last month, Berkshire County saw increases not only in the number of workers collecting unemployment benefits, but in the number of employed and in the county's total labor force.
The number of unemployed workers cracked the 5,000 mark for the first time since March, and only the third time this year. The number of employed, 66,692, is at its highest level since last November. The county's total labor force, 71,911, is at its highest level of 2013, and hasn't been close to this level for 10 months.
"It's surprising that all of the numbers are up," said Heather Boulger, the executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board.
"Typically, the rate starts to decrease in April, May and June and in July and August it's typically low," she said. "I don't know if there's a different way they're capturing the data or if it's in the ways that people are classifying themselves."
"A lot of part-time or contingency workers may be classifying themselves differently," she said.
Some companies in the Berkshires did downsize in June, Boulger said, but no significant layoffs were reported.
Unemployment in the Great Barrington, Pittsfield and North Adams workforce areas increased in June. But the only significant jump occurred in the North Adams area where unemployment jumped from 7.9 to 8.5 percent.
The jobless rates in the cities of North Adams and Pittsfield increased slightly last month to 9.1 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively. Unemployment in Pittsfield is at its highest level of 2013.
To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
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