BOSTON (SHNS/WWLP) – Massachusetts employers added 16,800 jobs in November as the statewide unemployment rate ticked up to 5.4 percent, labor officials announced Friday. The jobs gains lagged October’s revised haul of 26,400 positions.

From May 2020 through November, Bay State businesses added 519,500 jobs, replenishing about 79 percent of the jobs that were wiped away in March and April 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 emergency. Leisure and hospitality employment increased by 5,400 jobs, the largest gain among the industries tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Increases also occurred in professional and business services (3,400 jobs), education and health services (2,200), government (2,000), construction (1,900), other services (1,100), manufacturing (700), and financial activities (300). Two sectors reported losses: information (-200) and trade, transportation and utilities (-100). Joblessness has inched up since dropping to a yearly low of 4.9 percent in July, and the November rate of 5.4 percent was 1.2 percentage points above the national rate, labor officials said.

As employers across sectors describe struggles attracting workers, the statewide labor force participation rate stood at 66.3 percent in November, above the national participation rate of 61.8 percent. In January 2020, before COVID-19 hit, Massachusetts reported a labor force participation rate of 66.6 percent. That figure fluctuated during the ensuing public health and economic crises, dropping as low as 60.4 percent in April 2020 and reaching as high as 66.5 percent in January. 

22News found out at the MassHire Springfield Career Center that the COVID-19 crisis isn’t entirely to blame for the worker shortage.

“Even before COVID, the demographic in the region was going, was that the work force was in decline. We’re losing people because they’re aging out of the workforce. You layer in COVID on top of that, you have a whole other set of issues that the labor market has to deal with, shrunk our labor force,” said Executive Director Kevin Lynn of MassHire’s Springfield Career Center.