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Buffalo Niagara region’s jobless rate drops to 5%, lowest since April

The Buffalo Niagara region’s jobless rate keeps on falling.

The rate dropped to 5 percent in April, from 5.6 percent a year ago, according to the state Department of Labor. The figure for April had not been this low since 2007.

“We’ve had a continuing improvement in our labor market and our job market since about 2010,” said John Slenker, regional economist with the department.

The unemployment rate tends to be the last economic indicator to recover from a recession, Slenker said. For a market such as Buffalo Niagara, with a significant mix of industrial jobs, 5 percent is “a very low unemployment rate.”

New York State’s jobless rate in April was 4.6 percent, down from 5.3 percent a year ago. And the U.S. unemployment rate in April was 4.7 percent, compared with 5.1 percent a year earlier.

And among 15 metro areas in the state, Buffalo Niagara’s unemployment rate was only 10th-lowest, according to the department. The region’s jobless rate slipped below 5 percent, to 4.9 percent, last October. That was the only time that it has gone below 5 percent since late 2007.

But even at 5 percent, it can be tougher for some employers to find new hires to fill jobs with certain requirements, Slenker said.

“It depends on what kind of skill sets they’re looking for,” he said. “The more skills you have, the more in demand you are, and it can be harder for businesses” to find suitable new hires. For instance, he said, businesses are having a tougher time filling skilled trades positions, such as electricians, since older workers are retiring and fewer younger workers are coming through the pipeline.

The size of the region’s labor force increased slightly in April from a year earlier, but was still about 2.4 percent smaller than it was five years ago. The number of employed people in the region in April grew by about 1 percent from last year, but the total was still down by about 6 percent from a decade ago.

The number of people counted as unemployed was 27,400, the lowest figure for April since 2007.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com