NY lags again in jobs report

by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

Year-to-year private sector job growth in New York trailed the national average once again in April, according to the latest monthly state Labor Department report.  And on a month-to-month, seasonally adjusted basis, New York added almost no jobs in April, the report showed.

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Darker shading = little or no growth

During the latest 12-month period, private sector employment grew 1.3 percent statewide, compared to 2.1 percent nationally.  Once again, more than 90 percent of that growth was concentrated downstate, mainly in New York City, while upstate lagged far behind.

The weakest region of the state remained the Southern Tier, where Binghamton and Elmira once again lost private jobs even while sitting atop an enormous but untapped reservoir of natural gas. The Ithaca, Glens Falls and Syracuse areas also experienced employment decreases. The strongest upstate metro area was Buffalo-Niagara Falls, where the 0.8 percent private-sector growth rate was still considerably less than half the national average.

On a year-to-year basis as of April, New York’s manufacturing sector lost another 5,900 jobs, even as the nation as a whole was adding 103,000 manufacturing jobs. The state also shed another 1,100 jobs in the high-paying financial activities sector, which added 55,000 jobs nationally during the same period.

The fastest growing sectors of New York’s economy were educational and health services; trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality.

PS — In accepting the GOP nomination for governor today, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino noted that Westchester “has one of the lowest unemployment rates in New York.” As of March, the rate was 5.7 percent, compared to a 7.4 percent downstate average. The Cuomo administrations own official press release also hypes the continuing drop in unemployment statewide today.

But unemployment is the result of a calculation that also reflects the size of the labor force–which, in Westchester, shrunk by 3.4 percent between March 2009 and March 2014, according to the latest available non seasonally adjusted Labor Department data. The household survey indicated there were actually 8,400 fewer people working in Westchester in March of this year than in March 2009. The unemployment rate was nonetheless a lot lower—5.7 percent vs. 7.1 percent— because fewer county residents were available or looking for work.

As today’s Labor Department estimates show, as of April, the Westchester-Rockland-Putnam region also had created virtually no net new private-sector jobs on a year-to-year basis. In fact, the lower Hudson Valley tri-county region, dominated by Westchester, is still below its pre-recession peak private employment level for April. Private job growth in Westchester-Rockland-Putnam from April 2009 to April 2014 came to 4.4 percent, compared to a statewide rate of 7.7 percent and a national rate of 6.7 percent in that period (although, since Governor Cuomo took office in January 2011, New York State as a whole has trailed the US job growth rate).

The extent to which the county executive or the governor can be assigned either credit or responsibility for these trends can, should and no doubt will be debated in the months ahead. But given the decrease in the labor force in much of the state outside New York City, it’s risky for any political candidate to draw overly broad conclusions from the unemployment rate (which, by the way, is not extremely high in some non-growing upstate areas). The number of actual payroll jobs in a given state or area remains the best indicator of growth.

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- E.J. McMahon is the Research Director at the Empire Center for Public Policy.