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Mass. Jobless Rate Holds At 9.5 Percent

After a second straight month of modest jobs gains, the Massachusetts unemployment rate held steady at 9.5 percent in February.

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development on Thursday reported a net jobs increase of 1,500 in the month, with private sector jobs up 3,000 in total. Since the start of the year, private sector jobs are up 3,600.

Northeastern University economist Alan Clayton-Matthews said the private sector is performing stronger at this point than he would have thought.

"I’d expected job losses to continue for several months at a slow pace, and this is certainly better than that," Clayton-Matthews said. He noted that it may take months of jobs gains to really move the rate down, though.

The largest increases have been in the areas of education and health services as well as the trade, transportation and utilities category.

Speaking to WBUR, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne Goldstein called Thursday's statistics "cautiously encouraging," and said she is looking for those job increases to sustain.

"We're hoping that the trends that we're seeing in terms of growth in education or health services, for example, will in fact indicate a trend," Goldstein said. "But we need a few more months out before we can predict that or be certain of it."

Goldstein also pointed to a slight gain of 300 construction jobs in February, the industry's first monthly gain since October 2009. She said construction should pick up further in the spring.

Job losses were recorded in the leisure and hospitality and financial activities sectors, among others.

Overall, the bureau estimates the Massachusetts labor force was 3.48 million in February, an increase of 6,000 from January.

The estimate includes 3.15 million employed in February — up 4,400 from January — and 331,000 unemployed, which is an increase of 1,700 from January.

WBUR's Curt Nickisch contributed to this report.

This program aired on March 18, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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