The recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Labor that the New Bedford area had only a 3.7 percent unemployment rate was met with some skepticism and confusion, as the numbers didn't represent the city itself but rather the Greater New Bedford region.

Still, the numbers were impressive enough to warrant a mention from Governor Charlie Baker in his State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday night.

"The job gains have benefitted every corner of our state," Baker said. "For example, New Bedford had the steepest unemployment decline in the entire country, with an unemployment rate that has fallen from 6.5 percent to 3.7 percent in just the past year."

So if the region has fallen to 3.7 percent unemployment, what about the exact numbers for those within the New Bedford city limits?

"In the city of New Bedford, it's at 4.9 percent, down from 7.8 percent this time last year," Rebecca Risk of Robert Half International told WBSM News. Risk studies unemployment numbers for the New Bedford area.

Risk agrees with skeptics that part of the reason could be people running out of unemployment or choosing to forego working with the unemployment office, but she thinks there's more to it than just that.

"I think it's probably a combination," she said. "What we're seeing is there are a lot more jobs out there, so I have to assume a lot more of it these days is because people are going from unemployed to employed status."

Risk said New Bedford is still over two percent higher than the state mark of 2.8 percent unemployment, but she doesn't see why the city can't reach that number in the future.

"New Bedford does have some area to drop down to get on par with what the statewide numbers look like," she said. "Given the local trends we're seeing in terms of the number of jobs that are out there and that which I think that are on the horizon, hopefully we will see those numbers continue to drop in New Bedford."

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