Capital Region

Unemployment rates well below COVID peak, still higher than pre-pandemic levels

Drive-thru food distribution in Ballston Spa in August. File 

Drive-thru food distribution in Ballston Spa in August. File 

Categories: Business, News

ALBANY — The Capital Region unemployment rate has fallen well below the double-digit numbers seen this spring but is still substantially higher than a year ago: 5.7% in October 2020 vs. 3.4% in October 2019.

Across the greater Capital Region, local unemployment rates ranged from 4.9% in Saratoga County to 6.9% in Montgomery County.

The state Department of Labor this week reported preliminary October unemployment rates for counties, metropolitan areas and the state as a whole.

The report is one of contrast and fluctuation, as a fairly robust New York economy slammed to a partial halt in March while the state tried to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19, then partially and gradually revived as restrictions relaxed.

The Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan statistical area unemployment rate has changed directions six times so far in 2020: Falling to 3.8% in February, rising to 12.6% in April, falling to 9.6% in May, rising to 11.5% in July, falling to 5.4% in September, rising to 5.7% in October.

The jobless rate normally changes a few times every year, even without a world health crisis, but not with such marked swings.

April’s 12.6% jobless rate was the highest in modern record-keeping in the Albany metro area, far surpassing the 8.1% reported in April 2012, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, when the jobless rate here remained above 6% for 56 consecutive months.

Across all the metro areas in the state, hardest-hit in the COVID crisis remains New York City, with 13.1% October 2020 unemployment, compared with 3.7% in October 2019. But even that is a significant improvement — New York City unemployment topped out at 20.4% in June 2020.

From March 8 through Nov. 21, 165,148 initial unemployment claims were filed in the Capital Region, a 600% increase over the same period in 2019.

Statewide, 4.3 million claims have been filed since the pandemic hit New York, a 698% increase over 2019. The New York job sectors hardest-hit during the pandemic have been: accommodation and food services (536,000 claims); health care and social services (441,000); retail trade (417,000); administrative and support services (319,000); and construction/utilities (275,000).

From left to right, the estimated unemployment rates for October 2020, April 2020 and October 2019 were: 

  • Albany County — 5.9% 11.9% 3.5%
  • Fulton County — 6.8% 15.3% 4.5%
  • Montgomery — County 6.9% 14.8% 4.3%
  • Rensselaer County — 5.4% 12.3% 3.5%
  • Saratoga County — 4.9% 13.2% 3.2%
  • Schenectady County — 6.7% 13.4% 3.6%
  • Schoharie County — 5.3% 11.8% 3.8%
  • Albany metro area — 5.7% 12.6% 3.4%
  • New York state — 9.2% 15.1% 3.7%

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