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Unemployment grew in November New numbers show widespread weakness in area job market

The Buffalo Niagara region's unemployment rate bumped up to 7.3 percent in November as job growth stagnated and more workers joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Despite the increase from October's 7 percent rate, local jobless levels still were the lowest for any November since 2008 and tied for the third-lowest for any month since the end of 2008, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.

Unemployment levels typically increase from October to November as warm weather seasonal work winds down and before holiday retail hiring ramps up. In November, 41,500 local workers were listed as unemployed, up 3 percent from October.

The uptick in unemployment also came as the region's job market hit a wall in November, adding no new jobs over the previous 12 months in its weakest performance since August 2010. That stagnation extended the marked slowdown in job growth that the region has experienced since a four-month stretch during the summer that saw growth regularly top 1 percent.

The job figures released last week also showed widespread weakness in most segments of the local employment market, reinforcing a trend that surfaced in October. While the local construction sector is booming, with 17 percent more jobs than it had a year ago, most other segments of the job market have weakened over the past year, led by declines in the financial services, leisure and hospitality, government and information sectors. The only other segments of the private sector to add jobs during November were retailers, hospitals and durable goods manufacturers.

Even with the increase, the region's unemployment rate remained far below the seasonally unadjusted U.S. jobless rate of 8.2 percent, and it is comfortably less than the statewide rate of 7.9 percent.

The unemployment rate in the Buffalo Niagara region ranks in the middle of the pack among upstate metro areas and is far better than the 9.1 percent jobless rate in New York City. Among upstate metro areas, Binghamton, Elmira, Kingston, Syracuse and Utica all had higher unemployment rates last month.

The jobless rate, which stood at 8 percent a year ago, has dropped over the last year, in part because the region has 4,800 fewer unemployed workers than it did a year ago. At the same time, the size of the local labor force has shrunk, reflecting the region's decreasing population as well as a rising pool of workers who are either too discouraged to look for work or have dropped out of the work force while they learn new skills.

The region's job market has a long way to go to get back to where it was before the recession. The unemployment rate still is the third-highest for any November since 1990 and is far above the 4.6 percent rate of November 2007, before the recession began. The region also has 13,800 more unemployed workers than it did before the recession began to hammer the job market four years ago.

The rise in the local jobless rate came as the federal government reported that unemployment rates fell in 43 states last month, including New York. Only three states reported higher unemployment rates in November, the Labor Department said. Four states showed no change.

Nevada for the 18th straight month had the highest state unemployment rate: 13 percent. North Dakota again enjoyed the lowest unemployment rate: 3.4 percent.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com