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BUFFALO REGION LOSES 1,100 JOBS YEAR-TO-YEAR

The slump in manufacturing continued to take a toll on the Buffalo Niagara region's economy, causing the area to lose 1,100 jobs during August on a year-to-year basis and extending the longest decline in the local job market in eight years, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

The 0.2 percent drop in the number of jobs in the region marked the fifth straight month of year-to-year job losses for the Buffalo Niagara area, which is mired in its most prolonged job decline since a 34-month slump that ran from December 1990 to September 1993.

As a result, the Buffalo Niagara region's job market, which grew slower than the rest of the state and the country when the economy was expanding during most of the 1990s, is feeling more of the pain from the current slowdown than most other parts of New York and the country.

So while Buffalo lost jobs at a 0.2 percent pace over the last year, the state added jobs at a 1.1 percent rate, while the country created jobs at a 0.4 percent pace. Excluding government jobs, the region lost 700 jobs over the last year, or a 0.1 percent decline, compared with 1.2 percent growth statewide and 0.2 percent nationally.

"We're down a little bit, but a lot of that is caused by the slowdown in transportation equipment," said John Slenker, the economist at the labor department's office in Buffalo.

Among New York's 13 major metropolitan areas, only Jamestown's 1.8 percent decline, Binghamton's 1.6 percent drop, a 1 percent slide in Rochester and a 0.9 percent loss in Elmira were worse than the decline in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls region. Seven of the state's 24 rural counties - Allegany, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Steuben, Schuyler and Wyoming - had greater job losses on a percentage basis.

At the same time, though, unemployment remains relatively low by historic standards. The region's jobless rate fell to 5 percent during August from 5.6 percent in July. It was the second-lowest local unemployment rate for August in the last 27 years.

Manufacturing continued to be the hardest hit segment of the local economy, with the region losing 2,400 factory jobs to 84,000 over the last year, mainly because of cutbacks at the area's auto plants and the strike at New Era Cap Co. The region also lost 500 trade jobs to 130,000, along with 100 construction jobs to 23,500 and 100 finance, insurance and real estate jobs to 30,600.

The biggest gain came from transportation and public utility firms, which are up 2,200 jobs over the last year. But Slenker said that increase is due to the Verizon strike last summer, which depressed the job count a year ago and accounted for the unusually large 3,500 drop in the region's year-to-year job total during July.

Service firms, which employ more people than any other segment of the local economy, added 200 jobs to 173,200. The region also lost 400 government jobs to 85,600.

The unemployment rate in Erie County fell to 4.8 percent last month from 5.3 percent in July, while the jobless rate in Niagara County slid to 5.9 percent from 6.6 percent.

The unemployment rate in Buffalo fell to 8 percent last month from 8.9 percent in July and was unchanged from a year ago. In Niagara Falls, the jobless rate dropped to 9.3 percent last month from 10.3 percent in July, but was up from 8.7 percent a year ago.

Here are the unemployment rates for other Western New York counties for August and July 2001 and August 2000:

Allegany - 4.3 percent, 4.9 percent and 4.8 percent.

Cattaraugus - 5.7, 6.4 and 5.2.

Chautauqua - 4.8, 5.4 and 3.9.

Genesee - 3.8, 4 and 3.6.

Orleans - 4.8, 5.3 and 4.7.

Wyoming - 4, 4.6 and 4.1.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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