State Unemployment Drops to 4.6% in May
BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 4.6% in May, a 0.1% decrease from the previous month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in the state since December 2007. The new preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts gained 7,400 jobs in May, marking the ninth consecutive month of jobs gains. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 1.2% from 5.8% in May 2014. The unemployment rate in Massachusetts peaked in September 2009 at 8.8%. The May state unemployment rate is 0.9% lower than the national rate of 5.5% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised upward its April job figure, reporting the state gained 11,200 jobs, instead of 10,100, which the agency reported last month. “We have had solid job growth in the last three months, with approximately 30,000 jobs added in the state,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “As more jobs are created, more people are coming back into the labor market.” Over the month, jobs were up 7,400, with a private-sector gain of 7,100. Since May 2014, jobs grew by 70,600, with 59,300 private-sector job gains. Sectors that gained jobs over the month include construction, which added 3,500 jobs; retail trade, 1,500 jobs; and wholesale trade, 1,500 jobs. Transportation and warehousing lost 500 jobs. Manufacturing gained 600 jobs, and financial activities gained 700 jobs. Education and health services and professional, scientific, and business services had the largest job gains over the year.
Women’s Fund Announces $240,000 in Grants
EASTHAMPTON — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced a total of $240,000 in new grant commitments in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. Working within focus areas of educational access and success, economic justice, and safety and freedom from violence, partners in these communities will each receive $60,000 over three years to deploy innovative programs that will help shift the landscape for women and girls. Grantees include Berkshire County’s Flying Cloud Institute and ROPE/Women of Color Giving Circle for their Berkshire Collaborative for GIRLS in STEM project; Franklin County’s Greenfield Community College, Montague Catholic Social Ministries, New England Learning Center for Women in Transition, and Seeds of Solidarity for their Women’s GARDEN Project Collaborative effort; Hampden County’s Neighbor to Neighbor and Voices from Inside for their Voice Activated project; and Hampshire County’s MotherWoman, UMass Amherst, and Hampshire College for their Firm Foundation: Policy Change for Mothers project. “We had an extremely competitive applicant pool,” said Elizabeth Barajas-Román, Women’s Fund CEO. “The grants committee made difficult choices based on projects with meaningful collaborations, clear and attainable impact on the community, and on proposals that balanced our portfolio of funded projects already in the field.” The new 2015 grantees join exiting Women’s Fund grant partners funded through 2017: Berkshire United Way for a coalition effort titled Face the Facts Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition; the Prison Birth Project in Hampden County, which will continue its social- and reproductive-justice efforts for incarcerated and post-incarcerated mothers; and, in Hampshire County, the Treehouse Foundation’s project, Re-envisioning Foster Care Together. “Collectively, these grantees will help leverage the WFWM’s impact on the lives of women and girls in Western Massachusetts,” Barajas-Román said. “The WFWM will also continue to convene skill-building sessions and support the programming of organizations that work on issues that impact women and girls.” In addition to the financial award, WFWM will invest an additional $20,000 into the partnership by giving each organization the opportunity to nominate its staff, constituents, or board members as participants of the WFWM’s Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI), a program that has equipped 200 women from across the four western counties to become civic leaders in their communities; impact policy on the local, state, and national levels; and seek and retain elected positions. The WFWM is a public foundation that invests in the lives of local women and girls through strategic grant making and leadership development.
Tree-planting Program Expands to Chicopee
CHICOPEE — At a tree-planting ceremony at Fredericks Park in Revere, state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton announced an initiative to expand the Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGCP) to include the cities of Chicopee and Revere. The program, which targets the Commonwealth’s 26 gateway cities, is designed to utilize tree plantings as a way to reduce energy use in urban neighborhoods and lower heating and cooling costs for residents and businesses. “By extending the Greening the Gateway Cities Program to include the communities of Revere and Chicopee, our administration continues its commitment to work closely with cities and towns across the Commonwealth to provide resources that benefit municipalities and improve the state’s environment,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Added Beaton, “increased tree canopy will provide our communities with the first, and best, line of defense from excessive urban summer heat and the biting winds of winter. In addition to benefiting the Commonwealth in terms of energy efficiency, the Greening the Gateway Cities Program will provide the residents of Revere and Chicopee with cleaner air and water, reduced noise pollution, and the beatification of homes and neighborhoods within their community.” With a defined goal of a 10% increase in urban tree canopy in selected neighborhoods within gateway cities, the increase in tree cover is expected to reduce heating and cooling costs in the selected areas by approximately 10%, with an average homeowner saving approximately $230 a year, once the trees reach maturity. Over their lifespan, the trees are expected to lead to $400 million in energy savings for residents and businesses. Aimed at improving the often-low tree canopy found in the Commonwealth’s gateway cities due to their urban character and history of manufacturing, the program’s benefits are not isolated to energy efficiency. By planting trees, communities will see a reduction in stormwater runoff, higher air quality, an increase in property values and tax receipts, and a safer, healthier environment for residents. Under the program, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is spearheading tree-planting efforts and is in the process of planting up to a combined 15,000 trees in Holyoke, Chelsea, and Fall River. Agency staff, working in partnership with local municipalities and grass-roots organizations, have developed a successful approach to planting the number of trees required to have an energy impact, focusing on high-density urban neighborhoods, where planting on average 10 trees per acre will provide benefits to 15 to 25 households. Planting this number of trees will increase canopy by an estimated 1% in eight years, and 10% in 30 years. “The Greening the Gateway Cities Program is not only an important tool in our overall urban forestry plan, but will be an engine for job creation and energy sustainability in these communities,” said DCR Commissioner Carol Sanchez. “DCR is proud to continue the long-standing partnership between the Bureau of Forestry and the cities of Chicopee, Revere, Chelsea, Holyoke, and Fall River. With the help of local community and grass-roots organizations, GGCP will pay dividends in these high-density urban communities where green space is needed most.” To implement the expansion of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program, the DCR will partner with the city governments of Chicopee and Revere and community groups to plant approximately 100 trees this June, and thousands more to come. The program will also benefit the cities’ local economies by creating jobs for residents. DCR will hire local workers for tree-planting teams in each city, and every tree will be purchased from Massachusetts nurseries. “The City of Chicopee greatly appreciates the Commonwealth’s commitment to our city and its neighborhoods by providing us with a number of replacement trees,” said Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos.
State Offices Partner on Financial Education
BOSTON — The state Division of Banks, in partnership with the state Treasurer’s Office, announced the creation of the Financial Education Innovation Fund, which will provide an opportunity for high schools to develop or expand financial-education fairs. These events, most commonly known as Credit for Life fairs, are designed to be a fun and effective way for students to learn about making real-world financial decisions when it comes to saving, spending, and budgeting based on career choices and lifestyle decisions. “I feel strongly that students need to be exposed to financial literacy earlier and more often. We need to teach these skills so they can be used every day, so individuals can make sound financial decisions about their future,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “I am pleased that the Division of Banks is joining the Treasurer’s Office in promoting future Credit for Life fairs.” Massachusetts school districts are not required to teach financial education, and these courses are taught on a voluntary basis. Approximately 50 high schools in the Commonwealth currently offer money-management events to their students. Initially, $50,000 will be allocated to the Innovation Fund from the Division of Banks to support a pilot financial-education program. High schools throughout the Commonwealth that may not otherwise be able to sponsor this type of program may apply for funding to conduct a Credit for Life fair. This financial-education initiative will be funded with monies received by the division in settlement of alleged unlawful lending practices. For the first year, up to 15 schools will be selected to receive funding from the Innovation Fund. Schools must submit a completed application to the Treasurer’s Office by June 30 for consideration of an Innovation Fund award of up to $5,000. Award grantees will be notified in August, and financial-education events will be conducted by Dec. 31. “The Division’s goal of consumer protection goes beyond the implementation and enforcement of laws and regulations,” said John Chapman, undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. “It is also our responsibility to provide consumers of all ages the proper information to make wise financial decisions.” The application for the Innovation Fund initiative is available at www.mass.gov/treasury/financial-education/innovation-fund. The Division of Banks is an agency within the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation that oversees state-chartered banks and credit unions, check sellers, debt collectors, foreign transmittal agencies, mortgage lenders, and brokers. For more information, visit www.mass.gov/dob or call (800) 495-2265.