CAPITAL REGION — Unemployment is down, but the Capital Region area labor market isn’t out of the woods yet.
Some 15,300 jobs were added in October, encompassing 5.03% of the region’s non-seasonally adjusted growth since 2021. A number of sectors — especially hospitality and healthcare — are still struggling to fill positions beyond pre-pandemic levels, said Kevin Alexander, an analyst studying employment trends in the Capital Region for the state Department of Labor.
“The limited available workers for businesses to pull from is hindering growth that’s really demanded or needed,” Alexander said. “So that’s really what’s holding us in this position.”
The labor market began to stall in August 2019 and proceeded to slip significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment has decreased inch by inch since hitting a record high jobless rate in April 2020, 14.6%.
State unemployment rates are the highest in New York City, and the lowest, in Columbia County and Saratoga County, 1.9%.
“We’ve [Saratoga County] had some pretty substantial job growth, good-paying jobs, too, and I continue to say that our biggest challenge is that we can’t fill all of the open jobs that we have across every sector in Saratoga County because we just don’t have a big enough population of jobseekers,” said Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
Here’s a breakdown of the unemployment numbers by county between September and October:
Albany: 2.3%, down from 2.8%
Columbia: 1.9%, down from 2.4%
Fulton: 2.9%, down from 3.5%
Greene: 2.5%, down from 3.1%
Montgomery: 3.1%, down from 3.7%
Rensselaer: 2.2%, down from 2.8%
Saratoga: 1.9%, down from 2.4%
Schenectady: 2.5%, down from 3.1%
Schoharie: 2.3%, down from 2.8%
Warren: 2.2%, down from 2.7%
Washington: 2.2%, down from 2.7%
Most of the data per county has only shifted between 0.5 to 0.6-percentage-points. In Albany County, this means 900 fewer unemployed residents, and in Schoharie County, 100.
Yearly trends show that Montgomery and Fulton counties have topped the unemployment chart — a common 10-year thread. Warren County only once exceeded both communities by 2 percentage points at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Montgomery County remains the only area with unemployment higher than 3%, accounting for 700 unemployed residents and 21,500 employed.
“Smaller, rural counties with rural populations, that’s one factor that can lead to the higher unemployment rate as they just don’t see as much labor force growth as the other areas of the state,” said Alexander. “Additionally, I know their employment, a lot of it is focused within the warehousing side, so there aren’t as many sectors that are hiring a large amount of workers.
Here’s a breakdown of the two-month unemployment rate by municipality, not seasonally adjusted (most regional cities and towns aren’t listed by the state).
Clifton Park: 1.8%, down from 2.2%
Saratoga Springs: 2.1%, down from 2.5%
Albany: 3.0%, down from 3.7%
Colonie: 1.9%, down from 2.5%
Schenectady: 3.3%, down from 4.0%
Glenville: 1.9%, down from 2.5%
Guilderland: 1.7%, down from 2.5%
Rotterdam: 2.1%, down from 2.6%
Troy: 3.3%, down from 4.0%
Queensbury: 2.0%, down from 2.5%
Bethlehem: 1.7%, down from 2.2%
The state’s private sector employment briefly slumped in September, a shift believed to be the result of summer jobs ending. More holiday-related seasonal jobs could factor in the forthcoming November report, Alexander said.
The state’s labor data is partially sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau, which surveys 3,100 households statewide each month.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil