The private sector job count in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area increased by 8,500 or 1.9 percent, to 461,300 over the 12 months ending March 2015. Job gains were centered in professional and business services (+2,500), leisure and hospitality (+1,700), natural resources mining and construction (+1,600), trade, transportation and utilities (+1,300), educational and Health Services (+1,000), and financial activities (+600). Employment losses were greatest in manufacturing (-100) and other services (-100). Government employment decreased by (-600) over the year.
The Western New York region (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties) has made a steady comeback from the worst U.S. economic downturn in 75 years. The region has experienced over-the-year private sector job growth every month since April 2010. Since then, the regional economy has added a total of 16,000 private sector jobs, regaining all but 400 jobs lost during the recession.
The wholesale and retail trade sector, which shed 6,700 jobs between April 2008 and April 2009, has experienced a dramatic turnaround in Western New York. Since April 2010, the sector has added back almost 4,000 jobs. In addition, many retailers appear to have regained confidence. Grocery retailers Tops and ALDI, among others, have announced expansions over the past year. Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls is also looking to expand capacity for 50 additional stores.
Financial activities is another regional sector that has bounced back. Despite recent downsizings at HSBC and Bank of America, the sector has recovered 1,700 jobs in the region since April 2010. This was due, in large part, to expansion by companies like First Niagara Financial Group, GEICO, and recent acquisitions made by M&T Bank.
The professional and business services sector has been growing steadily for the past two decades. While this sector experienced some job loss during the recession, it has regained 2,400 jobs since April 2010. Moreover, the job count in this sector is at an all-time high for April.
Private education and health services is another regional sector that has grown steadily over the past two decades. It was largely unaffected by the recession, and is currently at a record-high April employment level. Health services should remain in high demand for the foreseeable future, as the region’s aging population will continue to require more medical services.
The leisure and hospitality sector has performed extremely well, adding jobs during both the region’s recession and subsequent recovery. This sector provides many entry-level employment opportunities for new entrants into the labor market. The sector has been at or near record high job levels for almost a year.
Employment in Western New York’s construction sector fell at the onset of the U.S. recession. However, job losses here were much smaller than those experienced in most other parts of the country. Moreover, data from Realtor.com indicate that the Western New York real estate market is expected to continue to improve, as evidenced by the shrinking inventory of houses and the decreasing number of days it takes to sell a property.
Manufacturing has long been the cornerstone of the Western New York economy. However, the last few years have greatly accelerated the changes that have been occurring for decades, as the auto industry in the region significantly downsized. At one point, there was legitimate concern that the industry would no longer exist in the region, since it shed more than 11,000 jobs between 2008 and 2010. However, as the recession ebbed, the industry made a remarkable comeback, adding back 2,300 jobs since April 2010. While smaller than in prior decades, the auto industry remains competitive in Western New York.
There is an emerging consensus about the need for more skilled tradesmen to replace aging workers. Essentially, skilled tradesmen are retiring faster than they can be replaced. This has created career opportunities for machinists, welders, tool and die makers, and other skilled tradesmen. To help address this shortage, the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council is establishing a training institute to increase the talent pipeline for this critical area.
Thirty-six consecutive months of over-the-year private sector job growth show that Western New York’s labor market is indeed recovering from the 2008-09 recession. Job opportunities currently exist in almost every sector throughout the regional economy.For more information, please contact: John Slenker NYS Department of Labor 290 Main St. Room 216
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