State’s Jobless Rate Remains Above 7%
BOSTON — The state’s unemployment rate remained above 7% for the fourth consecutive month in October as the Commonwealth’s expansion continued what has been a slow advance. The jobless rate rose to 7.2% in October, compared with 7.1% in September and 7.2% in August, according to the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.3% for October. Massachusetts added 9,100 jobs in October after increasing payrolls by 9,400 positions in September, the state reported. However, those gains were not enough to put a dent in unemployment, analysts said. The automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect earlier this year, have disproportionately hurt Massachusetts, due to its high concentration of industries that rely on such funding, such as defense, healthcare, and scientific research, experts noted. The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, led October’s job gains, adding 3,200 positions. Trade, transportation, and utilities gained 2,500 jobs, and the education and health services sector added 1,900 jobs. Construction jobs have grown steadily, adding 1,300 jobs in the month and 6,300 over the past year, a 5.5% increase. The financial activities sector added 600 jobs in October, and the professional, scientific, and business services sector gained only 600 jobs. Manufacturing lost 1,400 jobs over the month, and government employers cut 200 jobs.
Senate Backs Minimum-wage Hike; House Considering Vote
BOSTON — The state Senate voted overwhelmingly late last month to raise the state’s minimum wage from $8 per hour to $11 per hour over three years, putting the Commonwealth on track for the highest such pay in the nation. The Senate voted 32-7 to approve the increase. The measure calls for $1 increases on July 1 in the next three years. House leaders are balking at the proposal, however, warning that it would be a mistake unless the state also cuts costs for businesses by overhauling the state’s unemployment-insurance system. “Right now, the whole proposal, as far as we’re concerned, is in flux,” Speaker Joe DeLeo told the Boston Globe, adding that he expects a vote in the House will wait until at least January.
Governor Pledges $200m for I-91 Viaduct Work
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Deval Patrick announced $200 million late last month to replace a section of the I-91 viaduct in downtown Springfield, but told the audience at an Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield luncheon that the 2½-year project is only one step toward taking that section of the highway to grade level — or below. “It’s a great opportunity for the city and region to restore the connection of the downtown and riverfront,” Patrick told those assembled. The city’s mayor, Domenic Sarno, said the project could have a potentially huge impact on the city, and said he’s asked the state to think big. “Stay tuned,” he told the audience. “I want something bold and visionary.”
Millford Voters Latest to Say ‘No’ to a Casino
MILFORD — Voters in Milford became the latest in the state to turn thumbs down to a casino plan late last month, rejecting a $1 billion proposal involving Foxwoods by a nearly 2-1 margin. The agreement, which would have allowed the casino giant access to a resort on 187 acres off Interstate 495, was defeated by a vote of 65% to 35%. Voters in Milford thus joined those in West Springfield, Palmer, East Boston, and other cities and towns that have rejected casinos in their communities.
Tower Square Chosen for UMass Satellite Facility
SPRINGFIELD — UMass Amherst officials have chosen Tower Square in downtown Springfield as the site of what’s being called a “satellite center,” which is due to be open for the start of the fall semester in 2014. The facility will be known as “UMass Springfield.” At an elaborate press conference staged in the Tower Square concourse, university, state, and city officials announced that the MassMutual-owned facility had prevailed in a months-long competition to host the satellite facility. The other locations to submit bids were Harrison Place, 1350 Main St. (One Financial Plaza), and the Peter Pan bus terminal. The center will include academic programs to be offered by the UMass campuses in conjunction with UMass Online and UMass Amherst’s Springfield programs.
WSU Trustees Name Interim President
WESTFIELD — Westfield State University trustees have named Elizabeth Preston, vice president of Student Affairs, as the school’s interim president, following the resignation early last month of embattled president Evan Dobelle. Preston will serve until a permanent president is selected, a process that university board of trustees chairman John Flynn expects will take at least until the end of the school year to complete.
Mohegan Sun, Suffolk Downs to Team Up for Revere Casino Bid
BOSTON — Connecticut casino giant Mohegan Sun has agreed to join a Suffolk Downs casino bid in Revere, giving both parties in that entity a second chance to win big in the competition for coveted casino licenses. Mohegan Sun had spent the past five years trying to win the rights to build a casino off the Mass. Turnpike exit in Palmer, but voters there rejected a host-community agreement at a Nov. 5 referendum vote. Meanwhile, Suffolk Downs saw voters in East Boston reject plans to build a casino on track-owned land in that community. Track officials later reworked their plans — placing the casino entirely on land in neighboring Revere, which approved a casino referendum — and commenced a search for a new partner after Caesars Entertainment was asked to bow out amid questions and concerns posed by the Mass. Gaming Commission.