Capital Region jobless rate dips back below 5 percent

A spurt of seasonally hiring knocked the Capital Region’s unemployment rate out of the 5 percent ran
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A spurt of seasonally hiring knocked the Capital Region’s unemployment rate out of the 5 percent range in October, but it settled at a 16-year high for the month, according to statistics released Thursday by the state Department of Labor.

The Albany area’s nonfarm work force in October showed no net increase over the year, stalling at 453,300 jobs. But employers did add 3,400 jobs to payrolls over the course of the month — largely seasonal gains driven by governments, schools and retailers.

The region’s unemployment rate over the month declined to 4.9 percent from 5.2 percent in September. October’s rate was significantly higher than the reading of 3.6 percent a year earlier and the highest reading for the month since 1992. Labor Department Market Analyst James Ross said the region’s unemployment rate traditionally goes down in October and the monthly decline is not an indication that the worst of the economic crisis is over.

The Mohawk Valley experienced some economic relief as Fulton and Montgomery counties dropped below the 7 percent unemployment rate range, which they entered in September. Fulton County’s October rate over the month dropped to 6.8 percent from 7.3 percent while Montgomery County’s rate fell to 6.4 percent from 7 percent.

October’s unemployment declines come in the aftermath of the economic chaos that tore through Wall Street in September. Those problems left Lehman Brothers Holdings in bankruptcy and several other financial stalwarts on the brink of collapse or into the hands of more stable rivals.

In October, the Capital Region financial activities sector largely escaped the aftershocks of September’s developments. It reported no job loses over the month. But the sector ended October with 25,600 jobs, down 100 from a year earlier.

“The financial market’s meltdown has not yet started to impact jobs locally,” Ross said.

The financial sector’s reprieve, however, was short-lived. Dozens of job cuts were reported earlier this week at Goldman Sachs Group’s Ayco financial consulting arm based in Saratoga Springs.

The financial carnage weighed more heavily on the state, whose private sector shed 14,000 jobs over the year. New York’s unemployment rate remained flat over the month at 5.7 percent.

Taking the biggest hit in October from the economic downturn were area hotels and restaurants. The accommodations and food services sector hemorrhaged 1,400 jobs over the year, totaling 26,400.

Even though October U.S. retail sales fell to their lowest level on record, local retailers added 700 jobs to payrolls over the month, totaling 49,400. But the sector still remained down 500 jobs from where it stood a year earlier.

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