Jobless rates show improvement

Local unemployment rates have declined by more than 1 percent since February 2013, but the rates are still among the highest in the state, according to state Department of Labor data.

In Fulton County, the unemployment rate dropped 1.8 percent in February, compared with February 2013. Montgomery County’s unemployment rate dropped by the same percentage over the same period. Hamilton County’s unemployment rate fall by 1.5 percent in February, compared with February 2013. The February 2014 rates were 9.3 percent in Fulton County, 9.5 percent in Montgomery County and 10 percent in Hamilton County. The state unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in February and 6.9 percent in March, according to Labor Department data.

The number of unemployed New Yorkers increased from 655,700 in February to 663,100 last month, while the state has added 108,200 private-sector jobs in the past year, the Labor Department reported.

Some local officials say they are pleased to see the unemployment rate go down, but point out work needs to be done to lower the rates further.

Fulton County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Jim Mraz said it’s typical for the rates to be higher at the beginning of the year before dropping during the seasonal months.

“As the summer construction season and the tourism season starts to pick up around here, the employment level will drop,” Mraz said. “The rate is still too high, and it’s something that we are all cognizant of and part of the basis of why we have an economic development agency in the county that’s out there every day trying to create jobs in this area.”

He said while the tourism and construction jobs benefit the overall economy, the county always is looking for more manufacturing companies to provide steady year-round employment.

Fulton County Economic Development and Environment Committee Chairman Michael F. Gendron said cooperation between all the municipalities in terms of sewer and water would benefit the development of the area and create more job opportunities.

“We can’t create jobs because there is no regional water and sewer system and there is limited cooperation between municipalities,” Gendron said. “Any time you want development, they need shovel-ready sites, and part of that is having water and sewer available. I think it would be a great catalyst to reduce unemployment in this region.”

The county currently is reviewing a SMART Waters proposal for regionalizing water and sewer services.

Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said the unemployment rate in his county could be reduced by the creation of more private-sector jobs. He said a possible casino in the county and development of a regional business park in Mohawk would create jobs.

“We aren’t only looking at the large businesses but the small businesses as well, but it’s a tough environment with the cost of doing business in New York,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.