Ranks of unemployed reach new peak in region

Unemployment in the Capital Region hit a record high in February, with nearly 35,000 people out of w

Unemployment in the Capital Region hit a record high in February, with nearly 35,000 people out of work due to the recession, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The unemployment rate for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan area was 7.6 percent in February, an increase of 0.5 percentage points from January and 2.1 percentage points from February 2008, said state labor analyst James Ross.

“It is a record level, going back to 1990 when we started keeping statistics,” Ross said. “The year-to-year jump is the largest we have seen.”

Last February, 23,500 people were out of work.

Areas hardest hit were consumer-driven industries, which include the trade, transportation, leisure and hospitality sectors of the economy. These sectors represent retail and wholesale stores, hotels and motels, and restaurants and taverns.

“We have fewer jobs and we have less money. Housing values have dropped and confidence in the future economy is weak,” Ross said, explaining the dramatic increase in unemployment from a year ago.

The Labor Department noticed the economy weakening last year and it is now seeing job losses in sectors — such as information and education — that were once immune to economic downturns, Ross said. The information sector includes radio, television and newspapers, which are shedding jobs as advertising revenues plummet.

Capital Region unemployment numbers are expected to get worse in coming months, Ross said, particularly in light of the state’s ongoing budget problems. Gov. David Paterson this week announced he plans to lay off 8,900 state workers to help close a $16.2 billion budget deficit.

Area unemployment will likely decline later this year as federal stimulus money takes effect and construction begins on a massive computer chip facility in Saratoga County, Ross said.

On a positive note, the Capital Region is weathering the recession better than the state as a whole, which has an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent, and the nation, which has an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent.

u Schenectady County’s unemployment rate for February is 7.8 percent, up from 7.1 percent in January and 5.2 percent in February 2008.

u Albany’s rate is 7 percent, up from 6.6 percent in January and 4.7 percent in February 2008.

u Rensselaer’s rate is 8.2 percent, up from 7.5 percent in January and 5.4 percent in February 2008.

u Saratoga’s rate is 7.4 percent, up from 6.7 percent in January and 4.8 percent in February 2008.

u Schoharie County’s rate is 11.6 percent, up from 11.2 percent in January and 8.8 percent in February 2008. Moss said Schoharie’s rate is one of the highest in the state and reflects the seasonal nature of work in the county.

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