Westfield unemployment rate down

WESTFIELD – While Massachusetts has the lowest unemployment rate in the country at seven percent, Westfield’s rate is even lower at 6.3 percent.
City Advancement Officer Jeffrey Daley said Westfield’s unemployment rate is down 1.5 percent from last year.
“That shows progress,” said Daley, “but there are still a lot of unemployed and underemployed people. We have 1,400 unemployed residents, and the mayor and I think that’s 1,400 too many.”
Daley said there is an additional problem of a lack of skilled workers.
“There are job openings, but people are not skilled for those jobs and they go unfilled,” he said. “There are a lot of high technology manufacturing jobs, but they are so technical and require so much training that there are not enough people to fill them.”
Westfield Vocational Technical High School’s (WVTHS) manufacturing technology program is training students to enter the workforce, filling high paying skilled positions.
WVTHS Co-Op Director John York said the school could train even more students in manufacturing and still not fill the positions open in Westfield.
“One hundred percent of the 16 students in the rigorous manufacturing program are placed, and there are 40 machine shops in Westfield,” said York. “The number of students could be doubled and it still wouldn’t meet the job needs of Westfield shops.”
York also said Westfield’s aerospace companies are looking for skilled employees.
“For every commercial plane flying overhead, $150,000 of parts are made in Westfield,” said York.
One of the world’s leading staffing companies, Robert Half International, has a local office in Springfield headed by Metro Market Manager Kelleigh Marquard, whose office deals with professional staffing, said skilled workers are in demand.
“Although the unemployment rate for Massachusetts is seven percent, for particular skill sets, it’s even lower,” she said.
Marquard said financial analysts are in demand, as is administrative staff for offices, especially in the healthcare field.
“Those with bilingual skills are easy to place,” said Marquard, “and we see a need for filing clerks.”
She said the office skills her clients are looking for are easily attained through local schools and training programs.
While the Commonwealth is doing well compared to the rest of the country, which has an average national unemployment rate of 8.6 percent, it tops the country in underemployment.
Mike Hruby, president of New Jobs for Massachusetts, Inc., a Bay State pro-job-growth advocacy firm, made the announcement recently that Massachusetts leads the nation in under-employed workers.
Working with Chmura Economics and Analytics, a Richmond, Virginia-based quantitative research firm, New Jobs reports that Chmura’s latest analysis shows that Massachusetts in 2011 had the highest rate of under-employment in the country at 8.9%, followed by New Jersey at 6.7% and Connecticut at 6.3%.
“The unemployment rate released monthly doesn’t tell the whole economic story in the Commonwealth,” said Hruby. “These new figures should serve as a warning to Beacon Hill leaders that they need to take action to make Massachusetts more job-creator friendly.”
Chmura calculates educational attainment supply and demand in statewide labor markets. This is the first time state-by-state statistics for under-employment have been published.
Chmura defines an underemployed worker as someone who is working in a position at least one degree below his or her level of qualification – for example, someone with a master’s degree who is working as a retail salesperson, or a lawyer who works tending bar instead of practicing law. Chmura uses published national statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Census Bureau and applies its patented statistical methods to find regional clustering of likely over-qualified workers.
Chmura’s insight into under-employment fits a pattern that New Jobs for Massachusetts has been publicizing for months: that Massachusetts has a crisis-level need for new jobs.
Daley agreed there are too many underemployed residents in this area.
“People are doing jobs they never thought they would do,” said Daley.
However, Daley said the recession has given many unemployed and underemployed residents the courage to take matters into their own hands by becoming their own boss.
“Unfortunately a lot of people lost their jobs or took cuts, but the good thing is it brought many talented people to become entrepreneurs,” said Daley.”Our home business numbers are up. People are taking chances, and that’s exciting.”
Daley said although he will “not be happy unless our unemployment rate is zero,” he knows that is not likely. He did say Westfield is moving in a positive direction.
“We are working to attract businesses or expand businesses that will bring jobs,” he said. “I’m happy with Westfield’s numbers – it shows we’re doing something right.”

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