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Report: Mass. Economic Growth Outpaced U.S. Last Quarter

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Economic activity in Massachusetts grew at an estimated annualized rate of 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, a UMass journal reported Thursday, outpacing the nation's growth rate over the same period.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Department of Commerce said that the country's gross domestic product expanded at a 3.2 percent annual rate in last year's final quarter, according to preliminary estimates.

With the new figures, state economic growth outpaced the nation's growth in three of four quarters in 2013, the MassBenchmarks journal — published by the UMass Donahue Institute with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston — found. The state economy also grew at an annualized rate of 5.5 percent in 2013's third quarter, according to revised data.

"The Massachusetts economy appears to be benefiting from improving conditions in national and international economies, and by increasingly confident households who are demonstrating a willingness to spend," said Alan Clayton-Matthews, a MassBenchmarks senior editor and Northeastern University associate professor, in the journal's news release.

So what's behind the robust state growth last quarter? According to the release, it "was driven by strong employment growth, rising incomes, and improving consumer spending."

Massachusetts added almost 25,000 jobs in the quarter, the researchers said.

But the journal noted continued woes in the labor market. The state unemployment rate is at 7 percent, following a rollercoaster year, and "[c]onditions are particularly difficult for the long-term unemployed, the young, and the poorly educated," the release said.

The journal, however, is forecasting continued strong growth for Massachusetts in the coming months. Its leading index is predicting state GDP will grow at an annualized rate of 5 percent in the first quarter of 2014 and a 4.7 percent rate in the second quarter.

Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital news manager.