Kennedy: Jobs are out there but pool of workers is declining

Some job categories are still declining and workers may not have the skills for jobs that are growing

As of November, 11,000-plus job vacancies existed in the Capital Region, according to the state Labor Department — a not-unheard-of number of late.
In fact, during the first half of the year, 11,000-plus was the average for job postings in the region at the beginning of each month, according to a Center for Economic Growth analysis of data from New York State Jobs Express, a service of the Labor Department.
The first-half number this year was up 5 percent from the same period in 2017, according to the center, indicating the regional economy “is continuing to see strong job growth.”
Using the Jobs Express website, I found hundreds of jobs listed within 50 miles of my home. In the field of “healthcare practitioner,” St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam posted more than 50 jobs. In the category of “transportation and material moving,” UPS had 74 openings. In the area of “architecture and engineering,” General Electric advertised nearly 60 jobs.
But here’s the rub: We’re in a tight labor market where fewer people are out of work.
The Capital Region came out of the Great Recession with “fairly robust” job growth when compared with the rest of upstate New York, which has struggled, says Jaison Abel, an assistant vice president with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s research and statistics group.
Last week, the bank, one of 12 regional entities that make up the Federal Reserve System, held a press briefing to examine labor market conditions in its district, which includes all of New York, northern New Jersey, a sliver of Connecticut, and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Unemployment is well below the long-run average across the state, Abel noted. But what is surprising, he said, is that that’s the case, too, in upstate communities with little or no job growth in the post-recession expansion, such as Binghamton and Watertown.
“How can this be?” he asked, answering his own question by pointing out that “the pool of available workers” has been declining upstate.
While New York City has been gaining population, including younger workers, “people have been leaving upstate New York,” he said, particularly in areas where the local economy has struggled. And newcomers are hard to attract.
“Even with tight labor markets, it may still be challenging for some workers to find a good job … if you don’t have the skills that are desired in your local area,” Abel said.
John Williams, president of the New York Fed, indicated he has heard from employers who are having “significant difficulty finding qualified workers.”

While he said it may be “tempting” to think that with a tight labor market “all workers should be having an easier time finding a job,” some job categories are still declining and workers may not have the skills for jobs that are growing.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected].

Categories: Business, Opinion

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