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Labor statistics draw elation and reflection

January 8, 2019 12:25 am

Columbia County attained a milestone last week when its unemployment rate finished lowest in the state for the sixth consecutive month. Meanwhile, Greene County held its position in the middle of the pack among the 57 counties outside of New York City. Both results for November, reported by the state Department of Labor, are fueling different reactions and speculation.

To Columbia Economic Development Corporation President and CEO F. Michael Tucker, the statistics mean the county is providing job opportunities and a high quality of life. “Leading the state in employment rates is an encouraging sign that our economy is healthy and many of our strategies are working,” Tucker said. But, Tucker added, the corporation will continue to seek new and better ways to strengthen Columbia County’s economy.

Ancram Town Supervisor Arthur Bassin is cautiously optimistic about the meaning of the Columbia County results.

“My only question is if the number is decreasing because the number of people in the labor market has decreased,” Bassin said last week. It’s worth noting that Bassin’s question should be answered to justify the celebration of Columbia County’s employment winning streak.

Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden pointed out that Greene opened 2018 with a jobless rate over 5 percent. Since January, the rates have decreased to just under 4 percent.

“These are historically low numbers for Greene County, which is good news,” Groden said. “But I see a lot of signs in storefronts that say, ‘Help Wanted,’ so I’m wondering if the 3.7 percent of unemployed people are employable. Do they have the credentials or skills?”

Investments in Greene and Columbia counties are rolling in, and the businesses behind those investments are willing to take a chance on the local labor market. The risks seem to be paying off, but concerns about the meaning of the latest unemployment figures have to be taken seriously in a region showing signs of an economic comeback.