Mass. economic growth outpaces that of US

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January 30, 2014, 7:58 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, North Billerica, Mass.) - While it’s been a cause of concern for Massachusetts leaders for months that the state’s jobless rate has risen above the national average for the first time in years, new data released Thursday show the state’s overall economic growth far outpacing the nation’s.

The Bay State economy was growing at an annualized rate of 5.5 percent in the last quarter of 2013, compared to 3.2 percent for the nation as a whole, according to MassBenchmarks, a study published by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute and Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. A key factor cited by MassBenchmarks experts: Exports from Massachusetts rose 4.3 percent for the 11 months through November, compared to a 7.7 percent drop in 2012.

One company that epitomizes the trend is MRSI Systems Inc., a manufacturer of super-precise devices used for chip manufacturing in telecom, defense, aerospace, life science and other industries. Its devices, which sell for $150,000 to $750,000 apiece, can place a semiconductor chip to within 3 microns, or less than one-twentieth the width of a typical strand of human hair.

“We’re definitely seeing something happening out there” with an uptick in orders, and especially from Asian telecommunications equipment manufacturers, Michael Chalsen, MRSI Systems president, said in an interview Thursday afternoon.

Of the idea that the Massachusetts economy could be growing more than half again as fast as the nation’s, Chalsen said, “It sounds right, given that we’re in a high-tech space here with a lot of great universities, a lot of great technology. That feels right right now in terms of what we’re seeing. Our first half of this year, in fact, it’s probably the best backlog [of orders] we’ve had in many years.”

Jim Psota, co-founder and chief technology officer of Panjiva, a Cambridge company that provides a kind of super-Google searchable database for multinational manufacturers looking to line up suppliers, agreed that exporting looks like a key strength for the Massachusetts economy and overall prospects look good for the year ahead.

“In general, we’re seeing that developed economies are coming out of hibernation, and they’re on a path to steady growth,” Psota said.

In a recent survey of sourcing executives, Panjiva found 64 percent optimistic about 2014, just 10 percent pessimistic.

“That’s a really important indicator because sourcing executives are basically placing bets on how much product to place on store shelves this year,” said Psota

With videographer Scott Wholley

Tags: Boston, massachusetts, Peter Howe, Cambridge, business , Billerica, jobless rate, aerospace, economic growth, North Billerica, MRSI Systems, Michael Chalsen, Jim Psota, Panjiva
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