The latest job count and unemployment rate figures by the state Department of Labor show signs of economic growth in Steuben County over the past year.
There are two primary ways the Department of Labor gives its labor numbers, and Steuben County did fairly well by both measures.
For jobs data, the Department of Labor divides the state into 40 labor markets.
Steuben County added 600 jobs between January 2013 and January 2014, the latest figures available.
The county ranked seventh out of the 40 labor markets in private sector job growth. When compared to other small labor markets - excluding the bigger cities - Steuben County ranked fourth out of 26 in growth.
Steuben was also among only three upstate New York labor markets to gain jobs faster than the statewide growth rate of 2.1 percent.
The county also fared well in unemployment rates, which are given for each of the state’s 62 counties by the Department of Labor.
Steuben County’s unemployment rate dropped from 11.4 percent in January 2013 to 8.8 percent in January 2014, improving from 51st to 48th among the 62 counties.
That 2.6 percent improvement was the biggest drop in the unemployment rate in the state over the past year, said Christian Harris, a labor analyst with the Department of Labor.
However, it has to be taken with a “grain of salt” because the unemployment ranks shrank - i.e., folks got discouraged and gave up their job hunt - more than the labor force grew, Harris said. Overall, Steuben County’s labor force shrank by 2 percent.
Still, it was a “very respectable” improvement in the jobless rate, especially considering Steuben County ranked at or near the bottom of the state during the worst of the recession that began in 2008, he said.
“There’s still a long way to go to get to pre-recession levels, but hopefully we’ll get there,” he said.
According to the month-over-month figures, Steuben County’s unemployment rate actually rose from 7.6 percent for December 2013 to 8.8 percent for January 2014.
But the year-over-year comparison is a better indicator of how the local economy is doing, because the monthly figures are affected by seasonal workforce changes in various industries, said Jamie Johnson, executive director of the Steuben County IDA.
“It’s the annual view you really have to look at to show the strength of the economy, and we were pleased and a little bit surprised to see that Steuben County is doing so well compared to the rest of the state,” Johnson said.
The majority of the job gains were in the category of professional and business services. The categories of leisure/hospitality and manufacturing also showed improvements, Johnson said.
Another good sign was that some of the county’s major employers - such as Corning Inc., World Kitchen, Dresser-Rand, Alstom - have been hiring, although mostly in small increments, he added.
The unemployment rates in several neighboring counties also showed improvement between 2013 and 2014.
Chemung County’s unemployment rate was 8.0 percent, down from 9.9 percent a year ago, and Schuyler County’s unemployment rate was 8.1 percent, down from 10.5 percent a year ago.
The unemployment rate for the Southern Tier overall was 7.6 percent for January 2014. The statewide rate was 6.8 percent, the lowest level since December 2008, according to the Department of Labor.