City Sees Jobless Numbers Increase

Cambridge has 6.6 percent unemployment rate; state joblessness also increases

The unemployment rate in Massachusetts rose to 9.3 percent for the month of September, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Tuesday. The statewide unemployment rate was 5.6 percent last September. The national unemployment rate for September 2009 is 9.8 percent.

According to a press release from the EOLWD, unemployment rates rose in all areas of Massachusetts—including in Cambridge, which increased from 4.0 percent last September to 6.6 percent this September.

Linda C. Rohrer, director of Career Source, a career resource center based in Cambridge, said the rate is “not as devastating as it appears.”

Rohrer added that in the last few months, the number of unemployed people coming to the center seeking jobs has levelled off.

“Last November through February it was insanity, with thirty or forty people lining out the door every morning before we opened,” Rohrer said. “Now we open the doors and there may be just one person waiting.”

Executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association Denise A. Jillson said that Cambridge’s 2.6 percent increase in unemployment is not likely attributable to Square businesses.

“I’m sure there’s some turnover in terms of employees,” Jillson said. “Though in this past year, we’ve only seen a couple of major closings, so things are relatively steady.”

Jillson said she has heard reports that national chains, which constitute around 15 percent of the Business Association, have been struggling much more than smaller, locally-owned shops.

“These locally-owned independents don’t have to go all the way up the ladder to get an answer to change something,” she said. “They can react more quickly to a shifting economy in how to cut back hours, how to hire, than the larger chain stores can.”

“I don’t think we really need to target [Harvard Square],” Rohrer said. “There are a lot of retail stores there, and in that area people naturally come and go, are hired and laid off.”

Rohrer said people who used the career center have been hired at highest rates in health care, government, and professional and technical services such as information technology or biotechnology.

She also said the effect of universities and hospitals on the unemployment rate in Cambridge and the surrounding area is greater than that of the retail industry.

According to the press release from EOLWD, the number of job openings in the education and health service fields have increased in past year. More seasonally-dependent areas such as hospitality, transportation, trade, and construction have recorded the largest declines in job openings.

—Staff writer Shan Wang can be reached at wang38@fas.harvard.edu.