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Mass. Loses 5,300 Jobs In August As 'Temporary Job Disruptions' Are Cited

Though not mentioned by name, protesting Market Basket workers, like those seen here last month in Tewksbury, likely affected the state jobs figures.  (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Though not mentioned by name, protesting Market Basket workers, like those seen here last month in Tewksbury, likely affected the state jobs figures. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

When the August U.S. employment report came out earlier this month, and it showed worse-than-expected job growth, certain "employment disruptions" were cited:

Food and beverage stores lost 17,000 jobs [in August]; this industry was impacted by employment disruptions at a grocery store chain in New England.

Though not mentioned by name, analysts knew the Bureau of Labor Statistics was referencing Market Basket and its employees who walked off the job in protest of its ousted CEO. Amid the weeks-long dispute thousands of part-time workers were not given hours, making many eligible to file unemployment claims.

Now, the Massachusetts employment report for August is out, and it similarly shows figures that are well behind recent monthly trends.

The state economy lost an estimated 5,300 jobs last month, according to the report. And though Market Basket is again not cited by name, the report makes an apparent reference: "Job losses were impacted by temporary employment disruptions in the retail trade sector."

The larger trade, transportation and utilities sector, which includes retail trade, lost 10,600 jobs in August. Most other sectors in Massachusetts gained jobs last month.

"Confidentiality rules prohibit us from identifying anything specifically, but I will underscore that the retail trade sector includes grocery and food chains," Rachel Kaprielian, the state labor secretary, told our Newscast Unit.

With the job losses, the state's unemployment rate also ticked up, from 5.6 percent in July to 5.8 percent in August. That's still below the national level, which is 6.1 percent.

Thursday's report also revised down the state jobs gain in July, from an originally estimated 13,800 to 12,200.

With Market Basket employees back at work, the sector's job losses are considered temporary by analysts, like Doug Handler, chief U.S. economist for the Lexington firm IHS Global Insight. “We do expect this to be reversed," he told The Boston Globe earlier this month.

Secretary Kaprielian said the same. "I believe we will see in next month's numbers that that dip in jobs in the grocery/food chain/retail trade sector will be corrected," she said.

The jobs figures and the state unemployment rate are based on separate surveys — one of employers, the other of households — and both are subject to revision.

Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital manager. He occasionally reports on economic and transportation policy, climate and social issues, and politics.

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