UMass Donahue Institute
View web version Friday, July 27, 2012
The Benchmarks Bulletin
State Growth Continues to Outpace Nation in Q2,
UMass Journal Reports

The growth in Massachusetts real gross state product increased at a 4.0 percent annualized rate in the second quarter of this year according to the latest Current Economic Index released today by MassBenchmarks, the journal of the Massachusetts economy published by the UMass Donahue Institute in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

In contrast, the growth in US real gross domestic product increased at a 1.5 percent annualized rate during the same period according to the Advance Estimate released earlier today by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter of 2012, the Massachusetts economy grew at an estimated 4.0 percent rate as compared to 2.0 percent for the U.S. On June 5th the BEA estimated that the state's economic output grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate in 2011, making Massachusetts the seventh fastest growing state in the nation last year.

The MassBenchmarks Leading Economic Index for June was 3.6 percent, and the three-month average for April through June was 3.3 percent. The leading index is a forecast of the growth in the current index over the next six months, expressed at an annual rate. Thus, it indicates that the state economy is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 3.6 percent over the next six months (through December 2012).

The state's labor market continued to strengthen in the second quarter albeit at a slower pace than in the first. The unemployment rate fell one-half a percentage point during the quarter, from 6.5 percent in March to 6.0 percent in June while the U.S. unemployment rate ended the quarter where it began, at 8.2 percent.

Long-term unemployment and underemployment continue to be major challenges for the Commonwealth and the nation. In June, the broader U6 measure of unemployment (which includes discouraged and marginally attached workers, and those working part-time because they can't find full-time work) was 12.2 percent in Massachusetts and 14.9 percent nationally.

State payroll employment growth slowed to a 1.4 percent annual rate in the second quarter after growing at a 2.7 percent rate in the first quarter, according to the official payroll survey of employers. U.S. payroll employment growth also slowed, to 1.0 percent in the second quarter from 2.1 percent in the first quarter.

As we have discussed previously, these employment data are subject to revision and should be interpreted cautiously. However, tax collection data are consistent with employment growth. Withholding tax collections suggest that state wage and salary income surged at a 14.8 percent annual rate in the second quarter, after growing at a 7.1 percent rate in the first quarter.

In reality, earnings growth was likely more modest than these figures imply. According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR), some of these withholding taxes that would have normally been received in July appeared to have arrived in June. Accounting for DOR's estimate of the impact of these early receipts reduces the estimate of second quarter growth to a very respectable 9.2 percent annual rate.

Consumer spending on items subject to the regular sales tax and motor vehicle sales tax grew at 6.5 percent annual rate in the second quarter, after falling by a 10.9 percent rate in the first quarter. Between the second quarters of 2011 and 2012, this measure of discretionary consumer spending grew 3.8 percent.

The leading index is projecting a moderate slowdown in state economic growth in the second half of the year, to 3.7 percent in the third quarter and 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter. "There is substantial downside risk to this outlook, due to weakness in Europe, slowing growth in China, weak growth in the U.S. economy, and uncertainty about whether and how the looming "fiscal cliff" coming in 2013 will be resolved." noted Dr. Alan Clayton-Matthews, MassBenchmarks Senior Contributing Editor and Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Northeastern University, who compiles and analyzes the Current and Leading indices.

"One indication of the drag Europe is having on the state's economy is visible in Massachusetts merchandise exports, which are down 1.3 percent in the first five months of this year relative to a year ago. Merchandise exports for the U.S. as a whole, which is less reliant on Europe, are up 6.8 percent over the same period of time." added Martin Romitti, MassBenchmarks Managing Editor and Director of Economic and Public Policy Research at the UMass Donahue Institute.

MassBenchmarks is published by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The Donahue Institute is the public service, outreach, and economic development unit of the University of Massachusetts Office of the President. The current and leading indexes are compiled and analyzed by Dr. Clayton-Matthews, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Northeastern University and released quarterly by MassBenchmarks.

For a full breakdown of the latest indexes, click here. A comprehensive analysis of the state of the Massachusetts economy can be found in the most recent issue of MassBenchmarks.

For more information please contact:

Dr. Alan Clayton-Matthews
Senior Contributing Editor, MassBenchmarks
Associate Professor of Economics
and Public Policy
School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs
Northeastern University
(617) 512-6224

Dr. Martin Romitti
Managing Editor, MassBenchmarks
Economic and Public Policy Research
University of Massachusetts
Donahue Institute
100 Venture Way, Suite 9
Hadley, MA 01035
(413) 577-2393


Dr. Robert Nakosteen
Executive Editor, MassBenchmarks,
and Senior Research Faculty Advisor,
UMass Donahue Institute
Professor of Economics and Statistics
Isenberg School of Management
University of Massachusetts Amherst
(413) 545-5687


Dr. Michael Goodman
Editor, MassBenchmarks
Associate Professor of Public Policy and Chair
Department of Public Policy
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
(617) 823-2770

For timely and comprehensive analysis of the Massachusetts economy, please visit MassBenchmarks a