Jobs are up and unemployment is down statewide and in the Twin Counties, according to private sector job growth figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The report, released March 7, analyzed economic expansion from January 2018 to January 2019. There were 8,181,000 private sector jobs statewide in 2018, and the state’s unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent, the lowest annual rate on record, according to the Department of Labor.
“New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the New York state economy continued to grow last year. In 2018, our annual private sector job count exceeded 8.1 million, a new annual high, and the state’s jobless rate reached 4.1 percent, a new record low,” according to a statement from Bohdan M. Wynnyk, director of the New York State Department of Labor’s Division of Research and Statistics.
Much of the state’s job growth in 2018 was in New York City, but the numbers in the Twin Counties were also looking up.
In Columbia County, the number of nonfarm, private sector jobs rose 2.4 percent, and in Greene County it rose 3.9 percent.
“We continue to be encouraged by job growth in Columbia County over the last 12 months and we continue to have the lowest unemployment month after month statewide,” said F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation. “But at the same time, we are redoubling our efforts to promote workforce development and education programs to ensure those who want jobs have jobs, and those who need workers can find the talent they need to successfully run their business.”
Median household income in Columbia County in 2017, the most recent year statistics are available, was $61,093, while city of Hudson residents had a substantially lower median income at $35,439, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
While the jobs figures in the county are good, Tucker said his organization continues to seek improvement.
“Economic development is about a decent job and quality of life for everyone in our county,” Tucker said. “While these are great statistics, we cannot overlook the fact that there are still people looking for work.”
In Greene County, much of the job growth can be attributed to upgrades at local ski resorts, which expanded last year.
“There continues to be growth in the leisure and hospitality sector, which is up 400 jobs,” said Karl Heck, director of economic development and planning with the Greene County Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Planning. “There were other ups and downs, but that was the big growth sector. We have a number of ski resorts in Hunter and Windham upgrading their facilities so that has had a positive impact on job growth in the county.”
One business sector that is not experiencing growth is construction, Heck said.
“The construction sector is something that is being worked on, so we could see growth in the future,” Heck said. “There hasn’t been the boom in home construction that we have had in previous years — that is down significantly since the 1980s and ’90s. Construction continues to be a lagging sector for us, but everything else is going well and we are in a good part of the market.”
Heck added that New York City up to Saratoga, along the Hudson River corridor, experienced the bulk of jobs growth in New York state in 2018. Other areas of the state did not fare as well.
“This part of the state is doing better than the rest of the state,” Heck said. “Most of the jobs created were in New York City, but much of the rest of the growth was in this region. Six hundred jobs, for our geography in Greene County, is a lot. Probably a lot of the growth is the ski resorts, but there is growth elsewhere as well.”
But with the good news of the rising number of jobs comes challenges as well, according to Jeff Hunt, president and CEO of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.
“We are at a very low unemployment rate. We are pretty much at a point of full employment and it is harder and harder for employers to find workers with the skills that would match the jobs,” Hunt said. “For businesses in some sectors that has been a problem for a few years.”
One industry that is facing hiring challenges is the restaurant sector. Employers are finding creative ways to address the problem, Hunt said.
“In our hospitality business, which is growing, employers are turning to talent sharing in terms of keeping their businesses open,” he said. “Employees are working at two and three restaurants because they are having trouble finding workers with the necessary skills.”
Median household income in Greene County in 2017 was $53,215, while in Catskill it was $43,981, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In Greene County, the 2018 job growth figures are a continuation of an ongoing trend, said Jeff Friedman, president and executive director of the Greene County Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s part of a trend we have been seeing over an extended number of years where the county has been either leading the state or in the top three in jobs-growth percentage,” Friedman said.
Among counties outside metropolitan areas, only Sullivan County had a higher percentage of jobs growth, Friedman said, adding that much of that is due to the construction of casinos in Sullivan County. In terms of percentage of jobs created, Greene County was third in the state, including metropolitan areas.
“The Greene County economy is strong and job openings are actually pretty extensive across the county. There is actually a shortage of employees and I would venture to say that if there was a greater available employee pool, the number of new jobs could even be higher because numerous employers are looking for employees and can’t find people to fill the jobs,” Friedman said.
Having such a low unemployment number has its pros and cons, Friedman added.
“People who want to work are working and earning a living, but on the other hand if businesses cannot find employees they might have to reconsider their business plans if they can’t meet the needs of their customers,” Friedman said. “They can only take on the amount of business they can service.”