Despite recruiting challenges, health care and manufacturing poised for growth
As the country heads into 2013 with high expectations for continued economic recovery, the focus in Northern New York and across the United States remains solidly on jobs and job growth. As unemployment rates in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties waver from month to month, no tried and true trend lines have emerged. But business leaders across the north country are optimistic that job growth is in the immediate future. Developing a strategy for growing jobs and identifying potential markets for industries that bring jobs with them has been at the forefront of dozens of discussions in the past several months.
While economists are leery to express too much joy over a growing jobs market, the New York State Department of Labor released a statement in late December outlining how the state added 83,500 private sector jobs last year and the statewide unemployment rate fell from 8.7 percent to 8.3 percent. Industries with the highest rate of growth statewide included professional and business services, educational and health services and trade, transportation and utilities, adding a collective 98,100 jobs in the state.
In the north country
A labor department significant industries report, issued in 2011, details seven local industries designated as “significant,” six of which posted increased employment levels between 2006 and 2009, when the worst national economic downturn in 75 years hit the nation.
The state defines the north country region as Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties. In the report, the seven significant industries were trade, transportation and utilities, educational services, health care, leisure and hospitality and public administration. Each one of these industries experienced rapid development, higher-than-average wages and strong expected growth through 2016.
“We have good information for projections, in terms of [job] demand, though supply is very difficult to predict,” said Alan Beideck, a state Department of Labor regional labor economist for the north country region. Supply is the number of employable people in a given industry.
“It’s always good to encourage jobs in all sectors of the economy; however, over the last 10 to 20 years, manufacturing has faced some serious challenges, especially with the growth of off-shore operations,” Mr. Beideck said. “We do have some high-skilled manufacturing jobs that are relatively high paying. The areas where there are particular challenges are the lower-skilled and lower-paying positions.”
For the significant industries on which the state placed growth expectations in 2011, Mr. Beideck said several factors play into projected increases in available jobs. Given that education is one of the largest industries of the economy, the state considers the long-term growth of the public education sector.
“Currently, over the short term, schools are cutting back and they’re having some serious issues balancing their budgets,” he said. “Even though we wouldn’t expect any or very little growth in employment in schools, there is turnover. There is employee demand.”
According to the significant industries report, elementary school teacher positions, except special education, are projected to increase 13.1 percent through 2016.
Big expectations are put on the hospitality industry because of the north country’s reputation as a tourist destination, Mr. Beideck said.
“We have mountains, lakes and rivers. They aren’t anything that’s going to be taken away; it’s not something that can be duplicated,” he said. “Those things are unique and that is one of the obvious advantages of our area in terms of the tourism industry.”