Greene and Columbia counties, which have experienced a roller-coaster ride of shifting wage patterns over the last decade, find themselves in an even more difficult situation because the overall growth in weekly wages has not been able to attract new skilled workers to the area.
There are three theories for what is happening. First, there are not enough jobs in both counties combined in fields where skilled workers would be needed. Second, the ups and downs of weekly wages since 2008 in both counties are discouraging skilled workers to seek employment here. Third, the so-called gentrification of each county — $1,500-a-month rents in a region that pays the average worker $800 a week — is an unfair advantage to wealthy second-home owners from New York City and unaffordable for workers who toil here.
Moreover, the changes in average weekly wages tend to reflect the erratic nature of the region’s overall economy. There seems to be a correlation between the two. When wages go down, the economy is not doing well, but when wages rise, the economy is stronger, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Another factor to consider is payroll. It is the largest expenditure for businesses, large and small. It’s also critical for attracting a quality workforce, but Columbia and Greene are not wealthy counties, and that can work against luring skilled labor.
And we haven’t mentioned the high taxes that can drain the highest-paid labor force and drive it to other, less expensive states.
In other words, the competition for workers is fierce.
Our ace in the hole is the low unemployment rates in both counties. Relative to other New York counties, a lot of people are working here, and that could be the break we’ve been waiting for.