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Economies in Upstate New York are steadily improving

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    In this Oct. 7, 2016, file photo, workers from Saxton Sign Corporation change the sign of a First Niagara bank in Hudson last month to become another Key Bank in preparation for the merger of the branches. Key Bank completed the deal to purchase First Niagara this summer. Two separate economic reports gave Columbia and Greene counties split decisions on economic performance.
October 31, 2019 05:47 pm Updated: November 12, 2019 12:06 pm


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 .

Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.


A ranking of 43% for Greene County is honest. Pathetic. The railroading of an unjustified jail is a symptom. The Out of Alignment report,, shows a DECLINING population and per capita income. A $90 million jail drains the county, none of the contractors or the interest stays here. Pathetic! I sued. The case is in the Court of Appeals. Wake Up Rip Van Winkle, your sleep is over.
Greene County, lovely in terms of nature, ranks a pathetic 42 out of 62 in terms of finances. The only major project the county has is new and completely unjustified jail. The $90 million cost ignores any reason except corruption. This Monday the County ratifies next years budget. The budget is up of course, to cover the monster in Coxsackie.

The finance chair is Martinez, who appointed the ethics chair. Martinez represents, yes, Coxsackie.