Job market chat with Suzanne Bump

September 17, 2008
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About Our Guest
Suzanne M. Bump is Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Secretary Bump chatted with readers on Wednesday, Sept. 17, and took your questions on the Mass. job market, workplace fraud, the state's resources for job seekers, and more.

Secretary Bump: Good afternoon,

Secretary Bump: I am pleased to be part of today's session and look forward to your questions about the Massachusetts job market.

Secretary Bump: I also encourage you to visit our website at Tomorrow, Thursday, September 18 is Massachusetts Career Day, and there will special job fair events statewide. For information about all the events taking place, visit

Q: The national economy has seen a spike in the unemployment rate with many jobs being cut by employers. I have read that employment in Massachusetts remains pretty good compared to the nation as a whole. Why do you think that is? Which industries are doing OK, and which ones are having a tough time?

Secretary Bump: The unemployment rate continues to be below the national average as it has been for the past 17 months. The growth industries of education and health care which include hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, diagnostic clinics as well as colleges and universities continue to show strength over the last year. Sectors such as manufacturing and construction which aren't as strong in Massachusetts currently reflect national trends.

jn44: What is the state planning to help job seekers?

Secretary Bump: In Massachusetts, there are 37 One-Stop Career Centers available to assist job seekers at every stage of their jobs and careers. Tomorrow, in fact, all of them are participating in Massachusetts Career day, and job fairs are being held across the state. We want people to know that even during this time of economic uncertainty, there will be 500 employers looking to hire workers at events throughout the state. For a listing of Career Day events, visit

flv9: What's your take on the growing sector of green manufacturing jobs? Is this a long-term job solution, or are you worried the green industry will encounter a dot-com-like burst bubble that leads to a lot of people out of work if it happens?

Secretary Bump: This is a good question which has been asked by several chatters.

Secretary Bump: During Career Day tomorrow, in fact, there are several "green collar" job events taking place at The Work Place Career center, 29 Winter St., Boston. I look forward to attending some of these events tomorrow morning.

Secretary Bump: Governor Patrick is making substantial investments in this economic sector to encourage its further growth. It offers a wide range of jobs at all skill levels. There are many colleges and training programs which offer skills preparation for jobs ranging from R&D to sustainable building practices.

strm23: What resources are available in the state for disabled vets?

Secretary Bump: The career centers offer veterans and those with disabilities extensive services and supports.

Secretary Bump: There are veterans employment representatives at One-Stop Career centers who are specially trained to assist veterans and can inform them about eligibility for training programs. Many veterans don't realize the many opportunities that await them at the career centers and we encourage them to make full use of the services.

Secretary Bump: Additionally, each career center also has a special position called a Disability Program Navigator who helps customers connect to all of the resources available for someone with a disability to help them find employment.

Still_Looking: Are unemployment benefits being extended for those in the last throws of receiving unemployment checks?

Secretary Bump: Yes - Massachusetts is currently providing Federal Exteneded Unemployment Benefits to unemployed workers who have exhausted their benefits but are still searching for work.

Secretary Bump: For those currently receiving unemployment, you will be notified by the Division of Unemployment Assistance how to apply for these extended benefits, which can provide up to an additional 13 weeks of benefits to those who qualify.

Nellie_sMom: I'm having a hard time finding a job!

Secretary Bump: Even while employs report nearly 90,000 vacancies, it can be hard to make the match with the right employer. It pays to visit the local career center to find out where the vacanices are.

Secretary Bump: They can also help with interviewing skills and resume polishing. An added benefit is exchanging info with other folks like yourself who are looking for work too.

jerr: What are the penalties for those who employ workers 'off the books'? And what about the workers ... can they be fined for working for such an employer?

Secretary Bump: Employers who keep their workers face a host of penalties, since they are skirting laws relative to tax withholding, workers comp coverage and unemployment insurance contributions.

Secretary Bump: The Governor's Task Force on Employer Fraud is making sure that when a violation is found by one state enforcement agency, all others are notified, so our efforts bear more fruit.

Secretary Bump: The Joint Task Force on the Underground Economy has an information referral line for people to call, 1-877-96-LABOR. Information can also be found on

jn44: How much will the recent financial crisis affect Mass. employment, and what can the state do about it? Do you anticipate a lot more people seeking unemployment assistance in the coming months?

Secretary Bump: We are all keeping a careful eye on the latest developments in the financial sector.

Secretary Bump: At this point, it appears that employment in Massachusetts may not be adversely affected by the recent events. For example, many of the jobs proposed by the Bank Of America purchase of Merrill Lynch may well be right here in Boston.

Secretary Bump: In addition, the financial services sector in Massachusetts is center on private wealth management and retirement services. This part of the sector has not been as negatively impacted by the recent financial turmoil in the broader market.

Secretary Bump: And as we continue to monitor this situation closely, our "Rapid Response" team is ready to help those companies and workers who are affected by any job losses by providing on-site consultations about career search, applying for unemployment benefits, health care and other needs.

Jim: What tips would you give to a recent college grad looking for his first entry level job?

Secretary Bump: First, make sure you take advantage of the career counseling services at your college.

Secretary Bump: Second, check out relevant industry associations that relate to your field of study. They often host events and career information outreach on behalf of employers in that industry.

Secretary Bump: Third, I encourage you to check out a One-Stop Career Center in Massachusetts. These Centers work with employers in their region to help find qualified candidates. You can find more information at (Click on "One-Stop Career Center" to get a listing).

jjn44: With many people close to retirement seeing some of their next egg gone with recent events, do you think a lot more people will put off retirement and keep working? And if so, is this a good or bad thing for the job market as a whole?

Secretary Bump: Older workers are an enormously valuable asset to our workforce. With an aging workforce and slow population growth, we need to help employers retain their incumbent workforce.

Secretary Bump: Lots of us in the Patrick Administration are working across agency lines to identify and expand successful practices employed by businesses who have succeeded in retaining this valuable segment of our workforce. Some of these practices include flexible scheduling, taking a look at HR practices overall as well as retirement policies.

Still_Looking: How does one qualify for extended unemployment benefits?

Secretary Bump: There is information about eligibility requirements for extended unemployment benefits on the DUA website, I encourage you to visit this site to learn more about the federally-funded extended benefits program.

flozie: Is there any way to prevent the lunch hour from shrinking even more than it has (avg. 35 minutes now)?

Secretary Bump: Employer productivity goals and peer pressure conspire to take away the break we need from the daily grind. The law however only requires that full time employees be allowed 30 minutes for lunch, and it is up to the employer whether this time is to be compensated or not.

dc35_dan: is the outlook for construction as bright as union officials are saying?

Secretary Bump: Governor Patrick announced this spring an intensified effort to rebuild the Massachusetts infrastructure that includes roads, bridges, college campuses to affordable housing. Shovels are going in the ground and will be creating lots of new jobs. Despite the national downturn in construction jobs, we are optimistic that these investments will generate job growth in this vital sector.

Secretary Bump: On the private sector side, there are some very bright areas for commercial growth, including North of Boston. Residential construction in MA as in the rest of the country has slowed considerably.

mema: I've heard rumors of another possible extension. Is there any truth to it?

Secretary Bump: We've been in constant contact with our partners in the Massachusetts Congressional delegation about the possibility of another extension of unemployment benefits.

Secretary Bump: While there is nothing official from Washington DC at this time, we will continue to track this and will make an announcement if there is an extension of federal unemployment benefits.

Boston_com_Moderator: Folks, that's all the time we have, unfortunately we couldn't get to all of the questions. Thanks for all the questions and thanks to Secretary Bump for taking the time.

Secretary Bump: Thank you all for participating! I enjoyed chatting with you today. There were many great questions and I hope you found this helpful and informative. - Suzanne Bump

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