Summer tourism industry a big boost to Berkshire jobs
PITTSFIELD — The summer tourism industry provided a big boost to the Berkshire economy last month.
A total of 1,700 jobs were added in June in the Pittsfield metropolitan area, which includes 15 Berkshire municipalities, an increase of 4.0 percent, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Despite the influx of those new jobs last month, the county's unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.7 percent in June from 4.4 percent. May's unemployment rate had been the lowest in the Berkshires since December 2007.
Of the new positions added in the Berkshires last month, 1,000 are in the leisure and hospitality sector, according to Heather Boulger, the executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board. Jobs in that sector jumped 18.2 percent in June.
The Pittsfield area's monthly increase was the second highest among the seven city and town areas that are tracked by the state behind only Barnstable at 7.8 percent. Barnstable includes Cape Cod, another heavy tourist area. The state as a whole added 45,700 jobs between May and June, an increase of 1.3 percent. The state unemployment rate is 4.3 percent.
Over the 12-month period ending in June, the Pittsfield area added 1,200 jobs, a 2.8 percent jump, the highest among those seven areas.
Most of the jobs that were added in the Berkshires last month are seasonal positions, Boulger said.
"I hope that some of them will remain year round," she said. "The other 700 are most likely permanent."
Those numbers also include 200 new positions in education and health services, and 100 new jobs each in the construction sector; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; government; and other services, according to the state.
Berkshire unemployment was 5.5 percent in June 2015. It dropped below 5 percent in May for the first time since last October.
"It just shows that the perception is the economy is getting better because all the numbers are up," Boulger said, referring to increases in the county's total labor force, number of employed residents and the number of people collecting jobless benefits last month.
The county's total labor force, 67,109, and number of employed, 63.979, are at their highest levels in 10 months. As of Tuesday, there were 1,890 openings for Berkshire County on Job Quest.
Unemployment in the Great Barrington, North Adams and Pittsfield labor market areas also increased slightly last month. The biggest increase was in North Adams, where unemployment rose from 5.4 percent to 6.0 percent. The jobless rate remained under 4 percent in Great Barrington.
In the county's two cities, unemployment is 1 percent lower in Pittsfield (4.9 percent) than it was in June 2015, and 1.3 percent lower in North Adams, where the jobless rate is 6.8 percent.
Contact Tony Dobrowolski at email@example.com.
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