A July surge in the unemployment statistics in Greene and Columbia counties as the area tries to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic has officials worried about the immediate economic future and puzzled about the reason for the spike.

Their concern and their confusion are well-founded.

Columbia County boasted the state’s third-lowest unemployment rate in July at 9.9%, tying it with Tompkins County in the Southern Tier. On the downside, July’s figures reflect a 1.1% increase in unemployment over June.

Greene County had a 12.6% unemployment rate in July, nearly 3% higher than that of Columbia County and a 1.2% jump over the June rate. Compare that to the record low Greene County jobless rate of 3.6% set in September and October 2018.

Seeing these unemployment figures at the same time as businesses in the area were reopening through the summer is baffling and more than a little disturbing. Despite these reopenings, a significant number of people in Columbia County remain out of work.

In Greene County, the unemployment spike is directly attributable to the state’s mandatory lockdown in March, officials said.

All sectors in Greene County were healthy in February, a month before the shutdown. Today, the economy is at a low ebb. County officials are placing their hope in a rebound of the tourism industry to bring jobs back.

The local economy was on fire last winter, but the flames diminished and flickered during the state-ordered shutdown. Local officials need to call into question the chances of regaining lost jobs or, worst-case scenario, the possibility that these jobs will not return.

Getting answers will promote confidence in the area’s economy and, we hope, avert a gray autumn and a cold winter.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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