Local jobs data encouraging to some
The total number of nonfarming jobs in Fulton and Montgomery counties either increased or stayed the same as unemployment figures dipped nearly 2 percent from last summer.
Overall, the state’s unemployment rate hit a four-year low of 7.5 percent, though officials emphasize it’s the labor market breakdown that provides a clearer picture of economic health.
The state is one of only eight in the nation to recover the number of private sector jobs lost in the recession, according to a news release from the state Department of Labor.
Mark Barbano, labor market analyst for the Mohawk valley region, said the latest numbers are “mixed news” for the area.
“It’s good news that unemployment rates are down over the year,” Barbano said, but numbers are still not where they were before the 2008 economic downturn.
“There has been a large decline since the beginning of the recession, so it’s probably good news that it’s staying steady and, as a region, not going down with a lot of drastic changes,” Barbano said.
There was no net change in the number of jobs in Fulton County, but some sectors saw year-to-year increases. The category for natural resources, mining and construction grew from 400 jobs in June 2012 to 500 – a 25 percent increase. The number of goods producing jobs – which combines manufacturing, construction, mining and natural resources jobs – increased 4.8 percent from 2,100 to 2,200. There was no net change in the amount of manufacturing jobs – Fage yogurt plant is one example – from year to year.
Greek yogurt maker Fage USA is expected to double its workforce after its $100 million expansion.
Barbano said companies like Fage contribute to stability in manufacturing jobs in Fulton County. The region in general is a hotbed for warehousing and distribution jobs, too, he said.
“Those are steady employers, so overall it doesn’t look too bad,” Barbano said.
The “other services” category lost 100 jobs from year to year in Fulton County and stayed the same in Montgomery County. That includes varied fields such as cosmetology, mechanics, computer repair or jobs in religious organizations.
In Montgomery County, the number of jobs totaled 19,200 in June. That’s a 0.5 percent increase from 19,100 in June 2012. The greatest percentage increase was in manufacturing, which increased 3.1 percent from 3,200 jobs in June 2012 to 3,300 in June this year. Service providing jobs also showed increases with 100 more jobs in June of this year than June 2012. (15,200 to 15,300, equaling a 0.7 percent increase.) Unlike in Fulton County, natural resources, mining and construction category fell from 700 jobs to 600.
Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said the numbers are in line with what he expected. Service-providing jobs would have especially seen an increase with continued development of Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam.
“As far as manufacturing, we’ve been hearing from companies recently that they’ve noticed orders seem to be picking up, and there has been hiring [at] various manufacturing companies in the area,” Rose said.
In Fulton County companies like Epimed, which specializes in medical development, design, manufacturing and distribution, has grown considerably over the years from 20 to 85 employees at its Johnstown location, according to the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth website.
The new water-bottling plant, CG Roxane, also is bringing jobs to Fulton County.
Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer said he’s heard encouraging words from member businesses.
“On a broad basis, member businesses are telling me it’s looking good or better than the past few years,” Kilmer said. “I’m guessing their optimism is coming from an increased amount of orders coming in – things like that – the fact that they’re doing better and seeing a general national and international resurgence. These are businesses that do local business and ship national and internationally.”
Rose noted flexible foam producer M.H. Stallmen Company, which had headquarters in Rhode Island and a fabrication site in St. Johnsville, recently moved to Amsterdam.
“M.H. Stallmen Company, which recently moved into the former Hill & Markes facility [in the Edson Street Industrial Park in the town of Amsterdam] has begun ramping up with employment and production,” Rose said.
Are the numbers indicative of economy recovery? Rose says “it’s always too early to tell.”
“We look at the long trend over the course of a year or two to see if signs stay positive,” Rose said. “In our county, along with Fulton County, we have a lot of employers in service providing and manufacturing that hire seasonal employees. Numbers seem to fluctuate with the time of year as well.”
Montgomery County’s labor force – not including farming – totaled 24,000 in June 2012. That fell to 23,700 in June 2013, but so did the number of people unemployed. That figure fell from 2,500 in June 2012 to 2,100 the next year, equaling a 16 percent decrease in the number of people unemployed in Montgomery County.
The unemployment rate in Montgomery County dipped 1.5 percent from 10.2 percent in June 2012 to 8.7 percent in June of this year.
Fulton County saw a similar drop from 10.6 percent to 8.7 percent in June of this year, marking a 1.9 percent decrease.
In Fulton County, the labor force totaled 27,100 in June 2012. That figure dipped to 26,500 in June 2013. That’s a 2.2 percent decrease, but the number of unemployed people also fell 20 percent from 2,900 in June 2012 to 2,300 this year.
Hamilton County’s number of nonfarming jobs fell slightly from 2,300 to 2,200 in June 2012, a 4 percent drop. Hamilton County’s jobless figures fell, too, from 6.7 percent in June 2012 to 6 percent in June this year.
The unemployment rate accounts only for people in the labor force. Data is based on the Current Population Survey, not unemployment benefits.
The numbers measure jobless rates among people 16 years and older. People who have no job and are not actively looking for one are not counted in the labor force. To qualify as looking for work, the person should have actively looked for work in the last four weeks.
Out of 62 counties in the state, Fulton and Montgomery are still in the top eight for highest unemployment, but that’s better than the rankings last year when both were in the top five. Fulton County at times last year had the highest unemployment rate other than Bronx County.
“They’re still in the bottom eight, but it’s better than being in the bottom two,” Barbano said. “The unemployment rate is down by a lot last year, but if you look at it statewide, the rates are down all over the state, so most of the areas are seeing a pretty good decline.”
Barbano said most of the rates increased between 2008 and 2009 and have remained “fairly high” the last few years.
“Although we’re below last year’s rates, we’re not down to where we were before the downturn,” Barbano said. He said statewide trends show numbers down in government and manufacturing jobs compared to before the economic downtown.
“Health services, which has normally grown very fast, is slowing down in the last few years,” Barbano said. “Over the year we’re doing well, but if you go back four or five years, [the Mohawk Valley] region’s not doing that well.”
The numbers that really matter are the number of jobs available, Rose said. Several people in both counties commute to the capital region or elsewhere for work. If they are laid off in another county, they are counted as one of the unemployed – if they continue looking for work – in their home county.
“If there is a layoff in the capital district, that impacts the [unemployment] number in our county. It’s where they live, not where they worked,” Rose said. “The [job market data] are the numbers we’re really concerned about and the numbers we monitor. It’s what’s actually being created in our county by our businesses in our borders.”
Kilmer said the numbers are encouraging for marketing the region.
“We work jointly with the CRG and businesses in the region to try to market the area and get people to move to the area. That is part of our mission. Just having a general economic upswing is a good marketing factor,” Kilmer said. “It means we have a bettering economy,” and that can mean better social factors, too.
“Everything is a help. If you have more jobs, you have something positive to say about the area,” Kilmer said.
Barbano said the unemployment rates and job figures may appear worse in the fall and winter because of seasonal and construction jobs.