Barriers to an Economic Recovery in Massachusetts

I just finished reading a recent interview with Northeastern University’s Andrew Sum in MassINC’s CommonWealth Magazine.  Andrew is the Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies, which he founded in 1971, so he is no newcomer to the issues plaguing the Commonwealth.

In the interview, Sum makes some powerful observations that illustrate the serious challenges facing the Massachusetts economy:

We are still down 240,000 jobs below where we were in 2001.  We have the fifth worst job creation record in the country. If you take it back to 1988, we are up only 13,000 [net] jobs from where we were 22 years ago.  Back in 1984 in Massachusetts, we were making a recovery back to full employment faster than just about any state in the country.  That year we created 140,000 jobs.  We created the equivalent of 13,000 a month. And that’s how many we’ve created in the last 22 years.

Clearly, we have a long-standing problem that has affected our economic activity for over two decades.

A few other points from Andrew that should catch your interest:

  • We had the highest ratio of male job loss from the end of 2007 through the end of 2009 in the entire country — there was nobody close to us.
  • Out-of-wedlock birthrates have risen and now represent over half the births to women under 30.  That means more single parent families facing severe income inadequacy.  These kids have a very high drop-out rate, very low college attendance rate, and an even lower college graduation rate.
  • Teenagers are working at the lowest rate since World War II. (And there is a direct correlation between work experience at an early age and success in school and work.)

There are no simple solutions, and quick fixes without funding are not going to make a dent in the problem.  Avoiding these issues will only create additional barriers to growth.  Now is the time to determine the full range of action steps needed to end this downward trend. The future of the Commonwealth depends on it.

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