The Buffalo Niagara region added jobs for the 10th straight month in October, extending its strongest stretch of job growth in seven years, the state Labor Department said Thursday.
But the strength of that job growth has slowed markedly since August, weakening to an annual growth rate of 0.4 percent, which is a little less than half the 0.7-percent increase the region averaged during the first seven months of the year.
"We've had 10 months of positive numbers," said John Slenker, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo, who noted that the slower job growth locally coincided with a slowdown nationally. "It's very good for us."
The region added 2,100 jobs over the last year, which helped drop the local unemployment rate to 4.3 percent from 4.4 percent in September.
Most of the job growth, as it has for most of this year, came from the finance and insurance industry, which has added 3,500 jobs over the last year, a jump of nearly 13 percent. Educational and health services also remained strong, adding jobs at a 2.7 percent annual pace.
All of the growth came from the region's service-providing businesses, which have expanded their employment by 1 percent over the last year. That offset the continued struggles by the region's manufacturers, which shed 2,500 jobs over the last year at a 4.1 percent annual pace.
"We're still looking at the shake-out that's happening in the auto industry," Slenker said.
While the pace of job growth locally is stronger than it has been since 2000, just before the last recession, it still lags well behind the increase in jobs both nationally and across New York.
Had the Buffalo Niagara region's growth matched the U.S. job growth over the last seven years, the area would have about 37,000 more jobs than it currently has.
Job growth here last month was less than half of the 0.9 percent pace statewide, and was just a third of the national growth rate of 1.2 percent.
Among the state's 14 major metropolitan areas, the Buffalo Niagara region's job growth over the last year was tied for the ninth-fastest, faring better than the job losses in Rochester and Albany, but lagging behind cities such as Syracuse, Elmira and New York City.
The improved local unemployment rate was slightly worse than the 4.4 percent seasonally unadjusted jobless rate both statewide and nationally.
Here are the unemployment rates for October, September and October 2006 for the eight counties of Western New York:
* Allegany -- 4.8 percent, 4.9 percent and 3.8 percent.
* Cattaraugus -- 4.5, 4.6 and 4.0.
* Chautauqua -- 4, 4.1 and 3.6.
* Erie -- 4.2, 4.3 and 4.2.
* Genesee -- 3.9, 3.9 and 3.6.
* Niagara -- 4.6, 4.6, and 4.2.
* Orleans -- 4.5, 4.3 and 4.0.
* Wyoming -- 3.5, 3.5 and 3.5.