Week 4: The Geography of Growth

Copy of In Search of (3)In recent weeks, we’ve looked at the remarkable pace of job growth in Massachusetts and noted that this encouraging job creation performance came without gains in labor productivity or real wages. Now we add more nuance to the story with a series of maps indicating where jobs were added by industry.

The first map shows change in total employment between the fourth quarter of 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2014. The pattern is not surprising, Suffolk County, with less than one-fifth of employment, accounted for more than one-quarter of the jobs created in Massachusetts over the past four years. Suffolk was the only county in the state to over perform. But other counties kept close pace, with Middlesex, Norfolk, and Plymouth all generating strong growth.

Map 1: Total Employment Change, Q4 2010 to Q4 2014


The hopeful pattern of overall job growth everywhere obscures disparate patterns in true wealth generating sectors. For instance, the recovery in manufacturing industries was very unbalanced (note the change in scale). The Pioneer Valley continued to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs with steep declines in Hampshire and Hampden County. Although less visible in the map, Essex County, which lost nearly 2,500 manufacturing jobs, and Middlesex County, where manufacturers added 1,400 positions, shows stark contrasts in the Merrimack Valley.

Map 2: Manufacturing Employment Change, Q4 2010 to Q4 2014


While the manufacturing sector is an indicator of where the economic base is increasing, maps of other sectors show different patterns in secondary forms  of activity. For example, the fastest growth in health care and social assistance industries occurred in the western part of the state, where the population is aging and poverty is increasing. The highest health care growth rates were in Hamdpen, Franklin, and Hampshire, each county increasing their employment in the sector by about 25 percent in just four years.

Map 3: Health Care and Social Assistance Employment Change, Q4 2010 to Q4 2014


Construction job growth is another area where growth rates do not necessarily map directly to changes in the real economy. In Suffolk County, which tops the list with a one-third increase in construction employment, the jobs gains certainly correlate with growth in the economy more broadly. But the second largest increase (31 percent) occurred in Bristol County, where overall employment growth was under 6 percent.

Next week we’ll start look at how this geographic variation relates to labor force utilization and changes in income.

Map 4: Construction Employment Change, Q4 2010 to Q4 2014


Meet The Authors

Ben Forman

Research Director, MassINC

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