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Local jobless rate slips to 4.9% in November

The Buffalo Niagara unemployment slipped to 4.9 percent during November, driven by a shrinking labor force and a slight drop in the number of people who couldn't find jobs, the state Labor Department reported Tuesday.

The local jobless rate was a slight improvement from 5 percent a year ago and was the lowest jobless rate for any November since it stood at 4.7 percent in November 2007.

The November decline in unemployment was driven by two main factors. First, the Buffalo Niagara region has been slowly, but steadily adding jobs over the past 6 1/2 years, which has cut the ranks of the unemployed to a 10-year low.

At the same time, the region's pool of available workers also has been shrinking as discouraged workers stop looking for employment and older workers retire. The region's labor force, which had been slowly expanding for most of the past two years, began to level off during the summer and actually was smaller than it was at year ago in November.

The local labor force typically shrinks slightly from October to November, but the decline this year of 5,200 people was a little bigger than normal.

"I'm not worried about this at all," said John Slenker, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo. "An expanding job market doesn't cause people to drop out of the labor force."

The region’s jobless levels have been falling steadily for the past four years, fueled by moderate job growth and a shrinking labor pool caused mainly by a stagnant population and a wave of retirements among older workers.

"The phenomenon that we're seeing is the aging of the work force," Slenker said.

Jobless levels are at their lowest levels since 2007, but still would have to decline further to approach the modern-day lows that were set in 2000, when unemployment dipped as low as 3.8 percent in October 2000 and hovered between that and 4.3 percent for the final 10 months of 2000.

The local unemployment is slightly above the statewide rate of 4.7 percent and even further above the national rate of 4.4 percent. None of the jobless rates are adjusted for seasonal factors.

Other upstate metro areas also had modest changes in unemployment, with the jobless rate in Rochester falling to 4.5 percent from 4.6 percent in November 2015; Syracuse declining to 4.6 percent from 4.8 percent a year ago; and Albany slipping to 3.9 percent from 4.1 percent a year ago.

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