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Mass. Economic Growth Ticked Back Up In 1st Quarter

Massachusetts' economic growth outpaced the nation's over the first three months of the year, and rebounded somewhat from a slowdown over the last half of 2015, according to estimates released Thursday.

The state's gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 2.3 percent in the first quarter of 2016, per the MassBenchmarks bulletin — a joint publication of the UMass Donahue Institute and the Boston Fed.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that the national economy grew at an annualized rate of just 0.5 percent during the first three months of the year. According to The Wall Street Journal, that's the nation's worst quarterly economic performance in two years.

In Massachusetts, though, the state economy so far this year has bounced back from a more sluggish end to 2015.

Revised data from Thursday's bulletin show the economy expanded at an annual rate of 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter and 2 percent in the third.

And then, according to the MassBenchmarks bulletin, in the first three months of 2016, "both employment and earnings recorded strong growth and the unemployment rate fell." Payrolls grew at a 2 percent annualized rate, and earnings expanded 5.6 percent — a big shift from the final three months of last year, when earnings fell an estimated 7 percent.

The state's unemployment rate is currently 4.4 percent -- "lower than its pre-recession low of 4.6 percent in 2007," the bulletin said.

But, it added, "this overall strong performance continues to mask troubling imbalances in the labor market." Namely, a broader measure of the state's labor market, which includes people working part time but who want full-time work, "is still significantly above pre-recession levels."

The MassBenchmarks forecasters expect a further slight pickup in the state's economic growth over the next six months.

The economic growth figures are subject to revision. With additional data, they often change — sometimes significantly.

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

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