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Rapid Population Growth in State to Continue
HADLEY — Newly updated population projections by the UMass Donahue Institute say recent growth in the state’s population will be sustained through 2015, with the rate then slowing through 2035. The newly released report, “Long-term Population Projections for Massachusetts Regions and Municipalities,” was developed by researchers at the UMass Donahue Institute’s (UMDI) Population Estimates Program and Dr. Henry Renski, associate professor of Regional Planning and director for the UMass Center for Economic Development at UMass Amherst. It provides detailed projections, or expected populations, at five-year intervals through 2035 by age and sex for all Massachusetts cities and towns and eight distinct Massachusetts regions. This 2015 series updates the last set released by UMDI in 2013. The study, produced with support from Mass. Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, forecasts 11.8% growth in state’s population from 2010 to 2035, with population increasing by 771,840 over the 25-year term to a new total of 7,319,469. “Massachusetts has been growing very rapidly in the past few years”, said Susan Strate, Population Estimates Program manager. “It’s been growing more than twice as fast as the Northeast average, and twice as fast as it had between Census 2000 and 2010 on average. The new projections pick up on this recent, rapid growth before the natural forces of an aging population eventually start to slow things down.” Among the study’s most significant findings, the population aged 65 and over will almost double in 25 years, increasing from 902,724 in 2010 to 1,679,917 by 2035 — changing from 14% of the state’s total population to 23% by 2035. At the opposite end, the population aged 19 and under is expected to decrease by 57,000 people, changing from 25% of the state population to just 21% by 2035. Some areas of the state — including the Greater Boston, MetroWest, and Central regions — are predicted to grow at rates well above the state average, while others, including regions in Western Mass., will experience only slow growth. The Cape Cod region is expected to lose resident population if recent trends in migration, fertility, and mortality continue. This projection series picks up on the recent, rapid growth experienced in Massachusetts through 2014, estimated at 3% cumulatively since the 2010 Census and averaging 0.7%, or 46,492 persons per year, according to U.S. Census estimates. According to UMDI projections, growth will be sustained at this rate through 2015, adding about 245,000 persons in the first five-year period, and then gradually diminish over time, slowing to 0.2% annual growth from 2030 to 2035. By comparison, Massachusetts grew by 3.1% cumulatively in the 10 years from 2000 to 2010.

State Announces $1 Million Expansion of AgEnergy Grants
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker announced that Massachusetts farmers will soon be able to apply to the expanded Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) AgEnergy Grant Program, thanks to new funding from the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). As a result of the efforts of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton, DOER Acting Commissioner Dan Burgess, and MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux, DOER will provide $1 million to support a two-year expansion of the existing AgEnergy Grant Program. “A vibrant agricultural community in Massachusetts is essential to building healthy communities and a stronger economy across the Commonwealth,” said Baker. “As we celebrate the impact agriculture brings to our economy and history today, the expansion of the AgEnergy grants will help our Commonwealth’s farmers address their energy needs and increase their future opportunities for competitiveness in the global marketplace.” Added Beaton, “the AgEnergy Grant Program is an important part of keeping Massachusetts farms operational and competitive, while ensuring safe, long-term local food production.” The AgEnergy initiative is an annual competitive program for Massachusetts agricultural operations seeking funds to build energy projects to improve energy efficiency and facilitate adoption of alternative clean-energy technologies. By implementing these projects, agricultural operations can become more sustainable, and the Commonwealth can maximize the environmental and economic benefits from these technologies. “Supporting local agricultural operations through clean-energy investments and equipment upgrades is beneficial for the Commonwealth’s farmers, local consumers, and our clean-energy industry,” Burgess noted. Since its inception in 2009, the AgEnergy program has helped 156 farms build a variety of energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects, providing funding of more than $2.2 million toward $12.3 million in total project-construction costs, achieving more than $900,000 in either annual energy savings or energy generation. Projects have included installations of variable-speed-drive vacuum pumps and heat recovery for dairy operations; thermal curtains, biomass boilers, and high-efficiency heaters for greenhouses; cold storage and high-efficiency refrigeration for vegetable farms and orchards; high-efficiency arches, heat-recovery, and reverse-osmosis equipment for maple-syrup operations; anaerobic digesters; and a variety of photovoltaic projects for all farming sectors. “These new funds will provide a tremendous boost toward strengthening MDAR’s resources and our ability to serve the Massachusetts’ farm community in its own efforts to become more sustainable in their energy use and choice,” Lebeaux said.

Unemployment Holds Steady in New England
BOSTON — The New England Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released New England and state unemployment numbers for February 2015. These statistics are supplied by the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program, which produces monthly and annual employment, unemployment, and labor-force data. Among the key points, the New England unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.3% in February. One year ago, the New England jobless rate was higher, at 6.3%. Four New England states posted jobless rates that were significantly different from the U.S. rate of 5.5%. New Hampshire and Vermont (3.9% each) recorded lower-than-average unemployment rates. In contrast, Connecticut (6.4%) and Rhode Island (6.3%) had jobless rates that were significantly higher than the national average in February.

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