A recent report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli showed that New York had reached its highest-ever employment level — topping 9 million jobs in 2014 — after adding 538,000 jobs since 2009. Job growth, however, was not evenly distributed across the Empire State.
In keeping with the trend, New York City gained the most, three out of four new jobs created statewide. Meanwhile, four upstate regions actually lost jobs. The biggest declines in employment occurred in the Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier. For the latter region, it must feel like another hard hit in the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s refusal to approve hydro fracking. In addition, Binghamton and Broome County were not among the sites the state selected for casino gambling. That was a huge disappointment to an area still reeling from the recession and job loss.
Western New York, including the Buffalo-Niagara area, added some 9,400 jobs in the five-year span, ranking sixth in the state with its 1.5 percent growth. E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, notes that when the media reports that Upstate New York had the biggest employment drop in recent history, it needs to attribute the decline in the number of people seeking employment.
The comptroller’s report which includes the estimates for every month up to last June, reflects a slight uptick in the Western New York employment figures but that’s still behind the national growth rates, he said.
It would seem the Buffalo Billion — the amount Cuomo pledged in 2012 that the state would invest in the next 10 years to revive the Buffalo Niagara economy — has not helped all that much. The figure is actually $750 million, according to McMahon, and most of that has not yet been spent. A large portion of that is in government incentives and subsidies and there is a question how long it can be sustained after that money is poured into the region.
McMahon cites the key issue as infrastructure. Many roads, bridges and highways are deficient and that problem needs to be addressed. Meanwhile, there’s not even a five-year capital program for the state Department of Transportation that was due a year ago. It makes one wonder what folks on Capitol Hill are doing to earn their money.
© 2015 Niagara Gazette