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AREA UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FALLS IN FEBRUARY REOPENING OF SCHOOLS, NOT CREATION OF JOBS, CITED FOR PUSHING RATE TO 5.9%

The unemployment rate fell during February in Erie and Niagara counties, but the improvement was due to the reopening of schools following the January recess and not to the creation of new jobs, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.

The local rate dropped to 5.9 percent in February from 6.5 percent in January and 7.9 percent a year earlier.

"The reason for the change is due entirely to seasonal factors," said George P. Smyntek, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo. "With the return to school following the January recess, the employment in the government sector is up by 2,300, and it is all in the education areas, both state and local."

The surge in education jobs pushed the total number of non-agricultural jobs to 523,600, which is 2,500 jobs higher than a year ago, he said.

The services sector, with 149,400 jobs, increased by 1,900, with 1,500 of those jobs in education.

"On the other hand, the wholesale and retail trade sectors are down by 900 and that is again a seasonal change due to continued layoffs after January inventory," he said.

Manufacturing, which supplied 88,700 jobs, declined by 300, mainly in the auto sector.

Construction, at 15,400 jobs, declined by 600 jobs, but that decline was normal for February, which is usually the slowest month for construction, Smyntek said.

In other sectors, trade supplied 127,100 jobs in February, government 89,500, finance 28,500, and transportation 25,000.

In Erie County, the unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent from 6.2 percent last month and 7.5 percent a year ago. The number of unemployed people fell by 1,900 to 26,600.

The jobless rate in Niagara County slipped to 6.9 percent from 7.7 percent in January and 10 percent one year ago. The number of unemployed people dropped by 800 to 7,300.

The unemployment rate in Buffalo fell to 9.6 percent last month from 10.3 percent during January and 12.3 percent a year ago.

In Niagara Falls, the jobless rate fell to 10.7 percent from 11.9 percent in January and 15.3 percent one year ago.

Here are the February unemployment rates for other Western New York counties, compared with January and February 1994.

Allegany -- 8.1 percent, 9.7 percent and 10.8 percent.

Cattaraugus -- 8.5, 9.4 and 10.4.

Chautauqua -- 6.2, 7.1 and 8.6.

Genesee -- 7.4, 8.3 and 9.1.

Orleans -- 7.0, 8.1 and 10.2.

Wyoming -- 9.0, 9.8 and 11.9.

Among individual counties, Tompkins County had the state's lowest unemployment rate at 3.4 percent, while Hamilton County had the highest at 14.8 percent.

Albany had the lowest jobless rate among the state's metropolitan areas at 4.9 percent, while New York City had the highest at 9 percent.

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