Update: NARH's late-March closing likely to affect April's jobless rate


PITTSFIELD -- Last month's closing of North Adams Regional Hospital and other Northern Berkshire Healthcare operations did not appear to register on Berkshire County's March unemployment rate because the layoffs hit at month's end. A state official says it could land in April's numbers.

Those workers may not have had filed by the time the month ended, according to Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

"It takes time to register people for unemployment," Dufresne said, and "some were rehired."

Northern Berkshire Healthcare closed North Adams Regional Hospital and several related agencies on March 28, a Friday, three days before the end of the month. The closing left 530 full- and part-time employees without jobs, although Berkshire Health Systems announced on April 9 that it would hire about 143 of them.

Berkshire County's rate dropped slightly in March to 7.1 percent, down from the 7.4 percent in February. The county rate has been above 7 percent so far this year. The state unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, while national unemployment is 6.7. State figures for local unemployment rates were released on Tuesday

For the former Northern Berkshire Healthcare workers, their initial unemployment claims have to be processed, Dufresne said, which means the state needs to confer with a worker's employer before a claim can be filed.

Dufresne said it's possible that the situation involving Northern Berkshire Healthcare may have a more significant affect on Berkshire unemployment in April.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, meanwhile, relies on a monthly sampling of households to determine unemployment rates, not on the total head count of a certain area's population. The labor force, unemployment rates and jobs estimates for Massachusetts and every other state are based on several different statistical methodologies.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics acknowledges that these surveys may not produce the same results that interviewing an entire population would, the agency also states that the possible error resulting from sampling "is not large enough to distort the total unemployment picture."

The state does compile monthly job estimates for 12 separate city and town areas, and Pittsfield was the only one of those sectors that experienced job losses in March. Total employment dropped by 100 jobs in the Pittsfield area between February and last month. The area has lost 400 positions in the 12-month period that ended in March, a drop of 1.1 percent.

The county's total labor force dropped by 296 workers in March, and is below 69,000 for the first time in five months. The total number of the county's employed dropped by less than 100 workers last month, while the number of unemployed fell by 192 dipping below the 4,000 mark for the first time this year.

The numbers the state released on Tuesday are not seasonally adjusted meaning they take into account seasonal construction jobs, and positions in the travel and tourism industry.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
or (413) 496-6224.


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