Berkshire County sees steep drop in jobless rate in April


PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire County unemployment rate last month fell below 5 percent for the first time since October.

A significant drop in the number of county residents receiving jobless benefits helped the local unemployment rate drop a full percentage point in April to 4.7 percent, according to state figures that were released on Tuesday.

Local unemployment, which had been over 5 1/2 percent for the first three months of 2016, is now at its lowest level since it hit 4.7 percent last August, when it was at its the lowest it had been in seven years. Berkshire unemployment was 5.6 percent 12 months ago.

Despite last month's drop, the Berkshire unemployment rate is still half a percentage point higher than the state's seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 4.2 percent — the state's seasonally unadjusted rate is 3.9 percent — according to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The national unemployment rate is 5.0 percent.

Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates include seasonal construction jobs and positions in the travel and tourism industry. The local numbers released on Tuesday are not seasonally adjusted.

The number of Berkshire residents receiving jobless benefits in April dropped by almost 700 workers to 3,046, the lowest number in at least 12 months.

Heather Boulger, the executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The total number of employed Berkshire residents declined by only three workers in April to 61,478. The county's total labor force dropped under 65,000 workers for the first time since October to 64,524.

In the 15 municipalities that make up the Pittsfield metropolitan area, 400 jobs were added between March and April, an increase of 1 percent. Over the last 12 months, 800 jobs have been added in that area, which is a 2 percent jump.

Unemployment also dropped significantly in the county's three labor market areas. The biggest decrease occurred in Great Barrington, where the jobless rate fell to 3.6 percent from 5.0 percent. In the Pittsfield area, unemployment dropped to 4.8 percent from 5.7 percent.

In the county's two cities, unemployment dropped by a full percentage point in North Adams to 6.7 percent, and from 5.8 percent to 4.9 percent in Pittsfield.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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