By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – As the world slowly recovers from the “Great Recession,” there is much to be optimistic about, particularly in Massachusetts, according to economic sociologist Michael Goodman. But although there are definite positive signs things are improving, there are still areas, and sectors, of the state and country that are being left behind, he warned.
Goodman was the guest speaker at the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Doubletree Hotel Feb. 27. He is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Public Policy at?the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he directs the Master of Public Policy program. He is also a co-editor of “MassBenchmarks,” the journal of the Massachusetts economy, published by the UMass Donahue Institute in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
At the Corridor Nine breakfast, Goodman said that he was “feeling a bit more optimistic about the state of the state's economy” than he has in the last few years.
Corporate profits are now at a record high, he said.
“Corporations are firing on all cylinders now,” he said. “Overall, there is more cash on the balance sheets for many U.S. corporations.”
Conditions in the housing market are also improving he said, which is “great news” for the construction and building industries. Most of the housing recovery is concentrated in the greater Boston area, which he noted extends out to the MetroWest and Corridor Nine areas.
Commercial real estate markets have also started to pick up, with the welcome news that banks are “loosening their standards and are ready to lend,” he added.
Consumers are also starting to feel more confident and spending again, albeit cautiously. But conversely they are starting to pay down their debt as well.
Massachusetts has recovered its pre-recession employment levels, Goodman said, particularly in the areas of education, healthcare, life sciences and high tech. Most of that recovery, however, is in the greater Boston area. He noted that the farther away from Boston a community is located, the less successful it is in the recovery, with some communities actually seeing double-digit unemployment.
Also left behind are many people who have been unemployed for a lengthy amount of time, those under the age of 21, and those who do not have a high school diploma.
“The advantages of those who have at least an associate's degree are profound,” he said.
But not all those graduates are getting work in their chosen fields, he noted. Instead, they are taking jobs and “crowding out” less qualified applicants who might have, in better economic times, acquired those jobs.
In response to a question from an audience member about what role local government should play in economic development, Goodman said it behooved local officials to be “conscious” of business competitiveness between communities.
“Businesses underwrite a big portion of the tax base,” he added. “Communities don's often understand what their business community is and does.”