The Island has the second lowest seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in the state, according to recent data released by the state’s executive office of labor and workforce development. The office reports that the Tisbury labor market area, which includes all six Island towns, had a seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 3.8 per cent in July, while the state average was 6.6 per cent. Statewide, Nantucket had the lowest unemployment rate for July, calculated to be 2.9 per cent.
The Island jobless rate must be read within the context of a highly-seasonal economy, according to Rena Kottcamp, research director for the division of unemployment assistance. Statewide, there were four areas this month where the unemployment rate dropped in the state in July, including Barnstable, Nantucket, Tisbury and Amherst labor areas, all of which have high seasonal employment every year.
The rates are not adjusted for seasonality, so it’s difficult to see what is real growth or real decline, Ms. Kottcamp said. June’s unemployment rate was estimated at 4.3 per cent, indicating that businesses hired slightly more help for the month of July. Last year, the numbers showed a “corresponding increase [from June to July] . . . fairly similar increases in the employment due to high seasonality,” Ms. Kottcamp said. A year ago at this time, the unemployment figure was 4.2 per cent.
The data are compiled using prior employment trends, census data and household surveys, and include seasonal workers and year-round residents, Ms. Kottcamp said.
Susan Goldstein, co-owner of the Mansion House Inn, said she sees evidence of an improving economy this summer. “We have been delighted by the upbeat and uptick in business this summer,” Mrs. Goldstein said. “The advance reservations are very strong, and the September reservations are very strong. I think it indicates a new optimism in the economy . . . people felt confident enough to make bookings early.”
In late May and early June, as advance reservations rolled in, the hotel hired more staff members. “We knew our season was improving, so we certainly added seasonal staff . . . you don’t get staff in August, you either have them or you don’t.”
At Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown, sales in July were up 14 per cent compared with July of 2011, indicating a healthier season, owner Jim Athearn said. He predicted similar results for August, but has been disappointed by relatively sluggish business, he said. His farmers’ market workers have been coming home with corn, which is especially odd for this time of year, he said. “August should have been booming. But he’s not alone, he said. He’s heard similar complaints from business owners in Vineyard Haven, Edgartown and Oak Bluffs.
Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s Markets, said sales on average are equal to last year. “Sales are pretty good,” he said. “They have their highs and lows . . . things have been inconsistent. There were high points, low points, but the average of it all when the dust settles as we get through Labor Day, will be about the same.”
In the winter months, unemployment levels have recently been measured above statewide averages. The Island had an unemployment rate of 9.3 per cent in December 2011, while the state average was 6.5 per cent, and the Cape and Islands average was 8.5 per cent.