Local jobless rates on rise

John Zick

Regional unemployment crept back toward 8 percent in November, with holiday hires failing to make up for seasonal losses, according to a local labor analyst.

The unemployment rate increased in all three counties, and the tri-county region’s unemployment rate jumped from 7.6 percent in October to 7.9 percent in November. The last time the region’s unemployment rate was at or above 8 percent was in July.

The biggest spike in unemployment occurred in Schuyler County, where the rate jumped from 6.6 percent in October to 7.4 percent in November.

Chemung and Steuben counties both experienced a 0.2 percent increase in their unemployment rates, rising to 7.5 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively.

“(It) looks as if the holiday hires – retail, mainly – were not robust enough to overcome season losses in the warmer-weather-related industries – construction, mining, leisure and hospitality,” said Christian Harris, New York Division of Labor analyst. “To add to that, we do typically see an influx of ‘unemployed’ who are looking to secure holiday positions – many school-age (high school and college students) that hope to earn some money during breaks. This would lead to a seasonal increase in the unemployed count that can potentially, and in this case did, elevate the unemployment rate over the month.”

Despite the increases, each county posted its best November unemployment rate since 2008, and Harris said there were encouraging signs.

“I’m encouraged by the annual gains in private-sector jobs that have shown up in varying industry sectors,” Harris said. “(But) I’m concerned about public-sector losses that are erasing private gains. I’m also concerned with a shrinking residential labor force – down 1.9 percent over the year. Continued labor-force declines do point to discouraged unemployed jobseekers, which has a significant likelihood of leading to a resurrection of population migration out of the area to larger-scale economies with more potential job opportunities.”