Unemployment in the Buffalo Niagara region remained at its highest level in more than two decades as job growth ground to a halt during August, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.
The local unemployment rate of 8.8 percent was the highest for any August in at least 22 years, according to the department, and was more than a full percentage point higher than it was a year ago as the number of workers holding jobs fell to its lowest level since at least the 1980s.
The August jobless rate was slightly lower than July's 9 percent rate, although Labor Department economists caution that the two are not directly comparable because they have not been adjusted for seasonal factors. Unemployment typically drops from July to August.
August's high jobless rate is another sign of concern that the local job market has cooled since the start of spring, and comes on the heels of last week's report showing that in August, the region lost jobs for the first time in nine months. The region lost 400 jobs, a 0.1 percent decline and the fifth straight month that job growth was weaker than in August 2011.
Behind the jump in August's unemployment rate was a more than 1 percent decline in the number of people with jobs, which fell by 6,500 to a more than 22-year low of 527,100. With the overall work force remaining stable, nearly all of those workers whose jobs disappeared in the last year joined the ranks of the unemployed, which also grew by more than 1 percent and hit the highest level since at least 1990.
The number of unemployed workers in the region has nearly doubled since 2007, before the recession began, jumping by 90 percent to 50,600, the Labor Department reported.
But the Buffalo Niagara region was far from alone in suffering a big increase in unemployment over the last year. Among the state's 11 major upstate metro areas, jobless rates have jumped by an average of almost 1 percent since August 2011, ranging from an increase of 0.5 percent in Utica and Ithaca to a spike of 1.6 percent in Elmira.
The local unemployment rate of 8.8 percent matches the statewide jobless rate but is higher than the national rate of 8.2 percent, without adjusting those figures for seasonal factors. Among New York's 14 metro areas, only Binghamton, Elmira, Kingston and New York City had higher unemployment rates.
Unemployment stays high in region
*Buffalo Niagara jobless rate
August 8.8 percent
July 9.0 percent
June 8.8 percent
May 7.9 percent
*Unemployment rates in WNY counties
Allegany 8.7 percent
Cattaraugus 8.7 percent
Chautauqua 8.3 percent
Erie 8.6 percent
Genesee 7.1 percent
Niagara 9.2 percent
Orleans 11.3 percent
Wyoming 7.6 percent