UMass Donahue Institute
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The Benchmarks Bulletin

Mass Economy Bounces Back in Q2 2014, UMass Journal Reports

Recent data indicate that the Commonwealth contracted slightly in first quarter

Massachusetts real gross domestic product grew at an estimated annual rate of 4.9 percent in the second quarter of 2014 according to the MassBenchmarks 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, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, national real gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 4.0 percent in the second quarter based on the advance estimate of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

State and U.S. economic growth bounced back from the surprisingly weak first quarter as labor markets gained strength both locally and nationally. Based on the most recent data available, we now estimate that in the first quarter of 2014, the state's economy contracted at an estimated annual rate of 0.3 percent, while the U.S. economy declined at an annual rate of 2.1 percent. "The steep downward revision in the estimate of Massachusetts economic growth for the first quarter (originally reported as positive 2.6 percent) is primarily due to the correspondingly large downward revision in U.S. economic growth in the first quarter, originally reported as positive 0.1 percent," noted 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 Indexes.

"The downward revisions in U.S. GDP reflect large reductions in two components — consumer spending and exports — that were most affected by the unusually harsh winter weather. This sharply lowered estimates of national and state productivity growth, meaning fewer business sales per employee and thus a significant reduction in the first quarter estimates of economic growth," Clayton-Matthews added. 

Massachusetts payroll employment grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate in the second quarter, up from 1.2 percent in the first quarter; while U.S. payroll employment grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter up from 1.5 percent in the first quarter. During the second quarter, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts fell from 6.3 percent (in March) to 5.5 percent (in June), while the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 6.7 percent to 6.1 percent during the same period. Year to date (through June), the state's unemployment rate has fallen 1.6 percentage points while the national unemployment rate has fallen 0.6 percentage points.

Wage and salary income declined at an 11.6 percent annual rate in the first quarter, as estimated from state withholding taxes. This does not necessarily imply a drop in regular earnings but rather it likely reflects the strong wage and salary income growth over the previous two quarters (12 to 15 percent) due to bonuses and other non-regular lump-sum wage payments. Year over year (between second quarter 2013 and second quarter 2014), total wage and salary income was up 3.4 percent.

Consumer spending in Massachusetts continued to grow strongly in the second quarter. Spending on items subject to the state's regular sales and motor vehicles sales taxes — a good proxy for consumer discretionary spending — grew at an annual rate of 7.4 percent in the second quarter, up from a 6.1 percent rate in the first quarter. By this measure, year over year (second quarter 2013 to second quarter 2014) spending on these taxable items in the Bay State has grown 7.0 percent.

The MassBenchmarks Leading Economic Index for June was 3.8 percent, and the three-month average for April through June was 4.0 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 economy is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent over the next six months (through December 2014).

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
Professor and Director of Quantitative Methods
School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs
Northeastern University
(617) 512-6224

Dr. Robert Nakosteen
Executive Editor, MassBenchmarks
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
Co-Editor, MassBenchmarks
Associate Professor of Public Policy
Director, Center for Policy Analysis
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
(617) 823-2770


Daniel Hodge
Managing Editor, MassBenchmarks
Director, Economic and Public Policy Research
University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute
(413) 577-2393

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