State's job growth in April biggest in 17 years

Gov. Deval Patrick, who has blamed steep job losses on unprecedented global economic forces, swiftly claimed credit Thursday for the state’s largest monthly payroll growth in 17 years, pointing to his economic policies as the driver behind the 19,100 new jobs.

With the heftiest gains in the professional, scientific and business services sector, the unemployment rate dropped from 9.3 percent in March to 9.2 percent in April. Construction firms added the largest percentage increase for the month, growing 3.8 percent with 3,900 new positions, after a loss of 400 in March.

“We are on the mend and on the move,” said Patrick, whose rivals in the gubernatorial campaign have torched his handling of the state’s economy. “Since day one, we have focused on investing in the projects and industries that put people to work right now and make the Commonwealth stronger for the long-term. The significant gains we're seeing in the construction, scientific, financial and manufacturing sectors show that our strategy is working.”

The state’s jobless rate in April was below the 9.9 percent national rate. Beacon Hill Democrats have long claimed the state’s economic mix, heavy on financial services and so-called innovation economy employers, has it well-positioned for an aggressive recovery.

Seven of the state's 10 sectors added jobs, bringing the gains since April 2009 to 29,400, with 28,200 of those coming in the private sector.

Both Patrick’s government and campaign communications apparatuses leapt into action, with a statement from his State House press office arriving 23 minutes after the data’s release and political advisers crowing on Twitter about the job growth.

The rapid mobilization showed the concern Patrick’s camp harbors about his political vulnerability on the fiscal and economic fronts. Presumptive Republican nominee Charles Baker and Independent Treasurer Timothy Cahill have both blamed the nearly double-digit unemployment rate on Patrick’s tax increases, and pointed to recurrent 10-figure budget deficits as proof he is not a solid manager of the state’s finances.

“Anytime we’re putting people back to work it’s a good thing,” said Baker communications director Amy Goodrich. “But until [Patrick] gets serious about the reform and the restructuring of state government, taxpayers aren’t going to see the growth that they deserve. This is like scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter when the score is 42-0 and all the fans have left.”

A Cahill spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.