Report: Area employers reluctant to hire

Out of work? Looking for a job? Ever consider being a shahbaz? It might be worth taking into conside

Out of work? Looking for a job?

Ever consider being a shahbaz? It might be worth taking into consideration because area employers are not looking to fill many other positions early next year.

Northeast Health plans to soon start hiring shahbazim for its new residential-style senior group homes, which will replace two aging nursing homes in Cohoes. The first of 16 “green houses” at the Eddy Village Green is expected to open by early January. It will be manned by certified nursing assistants who are trained to engage more in seniors’ lives, “like family members.”

The Troy health facility network that employs 5,000 regionwide is calling each of those Village Green nurses a “shahbaz,” a Persian word meaning “royal falcon.” Plural, they are “shahbazim.”

“Northeast Health does anticipate hiring in areas of need during the first quarter,” said Northeast spokeswoman Angela Yu.

But need or not, many employers in the Albany-Troy-Schenectady area plan to hold off on hiring during the first quarter. Between January and the end of March, only 16 percent of employers expect to add to payrolls while 11 percent plan to cut workers. Seventy-one percent expect to retain current work force levels, according to a report the Milwaukee human employment services firm Manpower will release today.

The hiring outlook is down five percentage points from the first quarter of 2008, though Manpower changed the employer reporting criteria for the current hiring report, skewing the year-over comparison. The first quarter figure reached 27 percent in 2007, when the economy was still booming.

The low tally of businesses not in hiring mode does not bode well for the region’s ranks of unemployed workers. They will be looking for jobs in a recession, which the nation has been trudging through for the past 12 months but that was only officially declared last week.

“Manufacturing is difficult. One only needs to look over at what happened at Super Steel,” said Larry Farrelly, president of Schenectady boilermaker Unilux Advanced Manufacturing.

Farrelly, whose Unilux employs 40, said he has no hiring plans for early 2009. It has been several months since he last added someone to his work force.

Farrelly blamed the stalled hiring activity on the economic downturn, which last week prompted the Milwaukee-based Super Steel Products to announce the closure of its railroad car plant in Glenville. The Super Steel facility employs 175 and will close in April.

Even companies that fared well financially in 2008 are balking at hiring for next year. Schenectady food nutrient manufacturer Fortitech expects to end the year with about $150 million in gross sales, up from $130 million last year. Yet “there’s nothing in the hopper right now” in terms of hiring, said Fortitech spokesman Patrick Morris.

“I don’t expect there’s going to be a lot of hiring except for the standard health care and information technology [jobs],” said Robert Hummel, executive director of the Saratoga/Warren/Washington Workforce Investment Board, a quasi state and federal agency that assists unemployed workers.

The Rotterdam-based Golub Corp. is at least one exception in the battered retail industry. The Price Chopper parent plans to continue adding to payrolls after the holiday season. The grocery chain employs 25,000 and has 116 supermarkets in six states.

“We are not in a hiring freeze at all. We continue to hire to meet the needs of our growing company,” Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub said.

Many major employers have taken themselves out of the hiring game by implementing hiring freezes. They include Albany International Corp. in Menands, Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, the University at Albany and most importantly, the state government.

By October, the region’s unemployment rate registered at 4.9 percent, marking a 16-year high for the month. The rate will likely jump higher in November with the Saratoga financial consulting firm Ayco Co. and East Greenbush drywall manufacturer National Gypsum laying off over 200 workers combined. Nationwide, employers cut 533,000 million jobs in November — the largest monthly reduction since 1974.

Inundated by inquiries from New Yorkers seeking unemployment insurance benefits, the state Department of Labor announced Monday it will hire more staff at its Tel-Claims centers in Troy and Endicott. It will also reassign staff to field phone calls concerning out-of-work claims.

In November, the Labor Department received 826,000 calls about unemployment benefits, up from 322,000 a year earlier. During that period, original unemployment benefit claims rose 59 percent to 58,000.

With President Bush last month signing legislation extending the duration Americans can receive unemployment benefits, out-of-work New Yorkers might be able to ride out the winter hiring lull. The seven-week extension brings the total duration of emergency unemployment compensation to 20 weeks.

Categories: Schenectady County


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