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Local unemployment rate rises to 5.2% in August

The Buffalo Niagara unemployment rate keeps creeping higher.

The local jobless rate rose to 5.2 percent during August, up from 4.9 percent a year ago, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.

The region's unemployment rate now has increased for five straight months as the pace of hiring locally has cooled, although jobless levels still are hovering around a 10-year low.

Despite the uptick in joblessness, local economists and employment officials have described the Buffalo Niagara job market as being tight, with skilled workers in high demand, while those whose skills are lacking or have other obstacles, such as transportation issues or failed drug tests, are struggling to find work.

"As long as we stay around 5 percent, we're doing pretty well," said John Slenker, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo.

The size of the increase in the unemployment rate is not statistically significant, since the jobless rate has a relatively wide margin of error of at least a half a percentage point. So any change in the unemployment rate within that range could be explained by a statistical inaccuracy.

The local unemployment rate, despite the August increase, is the third-lowest for any August since 2007 and only slightly higher than the 10-year low of 4.9 percent set in August 2016.

The unemployment rate has been inching up as the pace of hiring across the region has slowed since spring. After averaging about 1.4 percent during January and February, the pace of job growth has slowed to about a third of the pace over the last six months, according to department data.

Joblessness is higher in the Buffalo Niagara region than it is both statewide and across the country. The unemployment rate stood at 4.5 percent during August across the country and at 4.9 percent statewide.

Among the state’s 15 major metropolitan areas, only Watertown, with a 5.4 percent unemployment rate, had higher joblessness than the Buffalo Niagara region during August.

The number of unemployed workers who were actively seeking a job but couldn't find one increased by 6 percent, or 1,500 people, from August 2016 to August 2017. The number of unemployed people has dropped by 40 percent since 2012 as the local jobless rate has fallen from a peak of 8.4 percent.

At the same time, the number of people who had jobs dropped by less than 1 percent. The 521,200 workers who were employed during August was tied for the fewest for any August since 2011.

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