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Massachusetts Adds 3,900 Jobs in April

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate increased to 3.9% in April from the March rate of 3.6%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 3,900 jobs in April. Over-the-month job gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; other services; information; and manufacturing. From April 2016 to April 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 58,600 jobs. The April state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.4% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Through the first four months of 2017, Massachusetts has added over 20,000 jobs, with much of those gains coming from key sectors of the economy like professional, business, and scientific services,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “These job gains, coupled with large increases to the labor force and a low unemployment rate, are signs of a strong economy in the Commonwealth. Our workforce agencies remain focused on closing the skills gap and ensuring that those newly entering the job market have the training necessary to access employment opportunities.” The labor force increased by 33,000 from 3,661,200 in March, as 21,200 more residents were employed and 11,800 more residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point from 4.0% in April 2016. There were 300 more unemployed persons over the year compared to April 2016. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased six-tenths of a percentage point to 66.5% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.5% compared to April 2016. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; construction; financial activities; education; and health services.

Cultural District Seeks Pop-up Gallery Proposals

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Central Cultural District (SCCD) has issued a call to artists for a unique opportunity in downtown Springfield. The Cultural District is searching for artists to host a solo show in their Art Stop pop-up gallery program and sell their work in one of three locations downtown – New England Public Radio (NEPR), UMass Springfield, and 1550 Main. The RFP asks for proposals from artists of all mediums to show their work from July to October. Requirements to what the art should look like are fairly laid-back, to best enable creative expression. All art will be available for sale during the display period, with 100% of proceeds going directly back to the creator. A stipend of $200 will also be awarded to the chosen artists. The Art Stop venues include a small community meeting space at NEPR which has been used for its youth arts program, MediaLab, and yoga classes; the highly visible first-floor lobby of 1550 Main, trafficked by hundreds of people daily; and the sunny and recently renovated main entryway of the UMass Center at Springfield. The SCCD hopes artists will draw inspiration from these differing spaces. “Art Stop has now become a flagship program of the Cultural District,” said director Morgan Drewniany. “We began this in October of last year and continued the effort in April, expanding to include Tower Square. Visitors love the unique blend of art, music, and community at the openings, and artists love being able to connect directly with their audience, as well as have a platform to sell their work downtown.” A joint reception will be held between the three locations in mid-summer, with gallery openings, street art, and performances between the locations to encourage walking, and light food and drinks, all provided by the SCCD and the artist hosts. The Springfield Central Cultural District encompasses an area of the metro center of Springfield and is membership-based, involving many of the downtown arts institutions. Its mission is to create and sustain a vibrant cultural environment in Springfield. The RFP and more program details can be found at springfieldculture.org/artistresources. Any questions can be forwarded to Drewniany at [email protected] or (413) 454-1195.

Plainridge Study Suggests Casino Projects Can Lower Unemployment

HADLEY — The UMass Donahue Institute released a compilation of results from two years of new employee questionnaires at Plainridge Park Casino. This report is the latest in a series of studies focused on the economic impacts of the gaming industry in the Commonwealth. Representatives from the UMass Donahue Institute presented its findings to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) during a public meeting on May 10. The findings reveal several important characteristics of new hires at Plainridge Park Casino and the emergent casino workforce in Massachusetts:

• 50.1% of new hires worked part-time or were unemployed before obtaining their job at Plainridge Park Casino;

• Major reasons for seeking employment included career advancement, improved pay, and improved benefits;

• 40.1% of new hires said they needed work due to being unemployed, part-time, or underemployed. 86.2% had no gaming experience prior to their jobs at Plainridge Park Casino;

• 96.5% of new hires did not transfer from other Penn National Gaming locations, and 92.8% did not move to take their jobs at the casino. Of those who moved, one-quarter originated from cities or towns within Massachusetts; and

• Nearly three-quarters of respondents come to their job without pre-employment training for their position.

The vast majority of survey respondents are people who are new to the gaming industry and are now being hired for gaming and non-gaming positions at Plainridge Park Casino, including its food-court vendors. Very few workers (only 7%) moved to take their job at Plainridge Park Casino, and those who did were mostly from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This suggests that most new employees live close enough to commute to their positions at Plainridge Park Casino. “As we have pointed out repeatedly, the Legislature made broad-based economic development a key focus of the Gaming Act, with a particular focus on local employment for those underemployed and unemployed,” said MGC Chairman Steve Crosby. “This report, thus far, demonstrates that legislative intent is being achieved. We are also pleased to see the implementation of the legislative mandate to objectively and rigorously assess the economic and social impacts of gaming. This report represents one of the many important research topics fulfilling that objective.” Added Rachel Volberg, principal investigator of the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) group, “one of the most important positive impacts of expanded gambling is increased employment. However, in assessing the overall impacts of expanded gambling, it is important to understand whether employment gains at the casino result in the loss of employment in other sectors of the economy and in surrounding communities. This report establishes a basis for making this determination going forward and will help us understand the role of casinos in increasing economic activity, and overall employment, in Massachusetts.”

Manufacturing Partnership Graduates 100th Student

TURNERS FALLS — On Friday, May 19, 14 advanced-manufacturing trainees will receive certificates of completion and start down the pathway toward precision-machining careers in Pioneer Valley manufacturing companies. The current cohort of students in the Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline – Computer Numerical Control (AMP-CNC) training program hail from across Franklin and Hampshire counties, including Belchertown, Colrain, Easthampton, Greenfield, Montague, Northfield, South Hadley, and Shelburne. Among these trainees will be the 100th graduate of a successful job-training partnership that began four years ago to address a shortage of skilled machinists in the Valley’s precision-manufacturing industry. The event will be held at 4 p.m. at the Franklin County Technical School. AMP-CNC is a non-credit, 15-week, 300-hour, hands-on training program offered by Greenfield Community College (GCC) in partnership with the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board (FHREB), the Franklin Hampshire Career Centers, Franklin County Technical School (FCTS), and area machining companies. The program has been offered at no cost to qualifying participants thanks to funding provided by federal and state grants and employer contributions. The AMP-CNC program is taught by experienced instructors in a state-of-the-art machine shop at Franklin County Technical School. The shop is outfitted with Haas CNC mill and lathe machines funded by employer contributions and matching state funding. The program uses the FCTS machine shop in the evenings after the high-school day concludes, thereby maximizing training use of the equipment. The previous seven cohorts have averaged a 93% graduation rate and an 84% job-placement rate. Students participating in the program complete testing, a four-week Foundational Manufacturing precursor program, and online Tooling U assignments. Coaching and job-placement support are provided to help students demonstrate readiness and pursue careers in precision machining by completing résumés, cover letters, and work-search plans. Trainees recently completed their résumés and cover letters to participate in a recent CNC job fair before graduation. Employers present included Bete Fog Nozzle, Hassay-Savage, G.S. Precision, Mayhew Tool Co., Poplar Hill Machine, Quabbin Inc., and VSS Inc., all employer partners of the program. Those interested in applying can sign up to attend one of the monthly information and application sessions by registering online at www.gcc.mass.edu/manufacturing or by calling the Franklin Hampshire Career Center at (413) 774-4361. The next information session will take place on Monday, June 12 at 3 p.m. at the GCC Downtown Center, 270 Main St., Greenfield. For more information about the AMP-CNC training program, contact Andrew Baker at FHREB, (413) 774-4361, ext. 375, or [email protected], or April Estis-Clark at GCC, (413) 774-1602 or [email protected].

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