The New England economy is still expanding, but the growth rate has slowed in recent months, and for some indicators, no longer exceeds the national pace of recovery.
Payroll jobs increased in January and February, but the region's year-over-year employment growth rate remained under 1 percent, keeping it below the rising U.S. growth rate, according to The First Quarter 2012 issue of New England Economic Indicators, released yesterday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Unemployment in New England also improved in February, although more recent unemployment indicators are weaker, the Fed said. The unemployment rate in New England totaled 7.1 percent in February, down nearly a percentage point from a year ago, and more than a percentage point below the U.S. rate.
Within the region, however, the jobless rate ranges dramatically, with New Hampshire and Vermont among the five lowest-unemployment rates and Rhode Island's 11 percent unemployment rate the second highest in the nation. The jobless rate in Massachusetts at the end of February was 6.9 percent, down from 7.7 percent a year earlier. Connecticut's unemployment rate declined to 7.8 percent, from 9.2 percent in February 2011.
Initial unemployment claims in New England increased in January, but then dropped in February to reach their lowest level since November 2007.
First-quarter home prices weren't included in the report, but the Fed said that most housing market indicators are "positive" for the region.
One aspect of the New England housing market not showing improvement, however, is foreclosure activity. Foreclosures increased in the fourth quarter of 2011 in New England, while declining nationally, bringing the region's initiation rate closer to the national average, though still below.
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