ALBANY – Unemployment rates are down for New York state overall, but wide swaths of upstate had fewer jobs in 2016 than in 2011, according to a new report.
New York’s unemployment rate is at 4.8 percent and more than 9 million New Yorkers were part of the workforce last year, the highest number the state has seen since the recession in 2008, the report from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found.
But that success is uneven across the state.
Downstate areas like New York City and Long Island have shown a lower unemployment rate and an increased number of participants in the workforce over the past five years.
Upstate regions have a lower rate of unemployment, as well, but now have fewer people in the workforce than in the past, meaning there are fewer workers actively seeking work.
Several factors play a role in the shrinking workforce upstate, such as workers moving to other areas, or an increased number of people leaving the workforce all together, an aging population and a shrinking job market in upstate, according to DiNapoli’s report.
“Statewide, employment is growing and unemployment shrinking,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “But ensuring good job opportunities for all New Yorkers remains a challenge.”
Between 2011 and 2016, the New York labor force grew by 0.7 percent to its 2016 level of more than 9.1 million.
That’s less than the national growth rate of 3.6 percent over that time.
Downstate areas have shown an increase in workforce participation, while many upstate regions have either declined or stayed about the same. The overall population in upstate New York has also gone down, leading to a smaller possible workforce overall.
Regionally, the labor force in the Southern Tier declined about 8 percent from 2011 to 2016, a drop of nearly 27,000 workers.
The labor force in the Hudson Valley remained largely the same, according to the report.
E.J. McMahon, research director for the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank, said the report “highlighted the ongoing weakness of the upstate economy.”
The Southern Tier, he said, was “notably weak.”
Even though unemployment rates in places like the Southern Tier, North Country, the Mohawk Valley, central and western New York have decreased between 2011 and 2016, the number of workers has decreased.
“There is an overall shrinkage in the labor force upstate,” McMahon said.