ALBANY — Unemployment rates continue to fare relatively well in counties across New York state, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor.
For the second year in the row, Columbia County’s 2.8% unemployment rate is the lowest in the state. In a separate study by SmartAsset, Columbia County scored in the top 10 of financially healthy counties in New York, based on its residents’ poverty rates, bankruptcies and debt.
But Greene County was not as successful, according to the SmartAsset report, ranking 43rd among all New York counties.
F. Michael Tucker, president of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation, said while the data from the Department of Labor is positive, there are still some issues behind the numbers to look at.
“It also reflects the fact that the growing service economy in the county is creating lower-paying jobs, as opposed to some of the manufacturing jobs that have been lost,” Tucker said.
With so many people working, he added, employers in the area may have a harder time finding qualified candidates for jobs they need filled — especially because nearly 40% of Columbia County’s workforce works outside the county.
Underemployment is another issue to look out for, Tucker said — there are a number of people in Columbia County who pair full-time jobs with multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet.
“I think it’s positive that we’re doing better than counties at the lowest ends of the scale,” Tucker said. “At the same time, we can’t take our foot off the gas. We must remain vigilant to ensure that at the end of the day, it’s all about the quality of life and good jobs for the county.”
Genesee and Greene counties trailed close behind Columbia, with unemployment rates of 3.3% and 3.7%, respectively. Economic development officials from Greene and Genesee counties did not respond to requests for comment.
While the North Country continued to trail behind the rest of New York with some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, the area is keeping up with its personal best records of unemployment — 4.7 percent in the Watertown-Fort Drum area as of September.
“They’re rural, they’re sparsely populated, there’s really no major metropolitan area closely, a lot of counties don’t have a major highway in them,” said Anthony Hayden, labor market analyst with the Department of Labor for the North Country region. “But if you exclude August and September, Jefferson County had been hitting record lows in terms of unemployment rate for almost a year.”
A representative from the North Country Regional Economic Development Council declined to comment on the recently released data, but it has invested in over 40 development projects to stimulate the economy between Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties since 2011.
You can see the study at https://smartasset.com/retirement/financial-advisor#newyork .
Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.