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Regional unemployment rate stuck above 8%

The unemployment rate in the Buffalo Niagara region inched down to 8.2 percent during October as jobless levels remained stubbornly high amid stagnant job growth.

The jobless rate last month was down from 8.4 percent in September, though Labor Department economists caution that the two rates are not directly comparable, because they have not been adjusted for seasonal factors.

Regardless, unemployment locally remained at its highest level for any October since the early 1980s and was well above the 7.4 percent unemployment rate in October 2011, the state Labor Department reported Tuesday. The region’s jobless rate has been above 8 percent for 10 consecutive months.

The number of workers who were actively looking for jobs but couldn’t find them rose to its highest level in at least 22 years, but that was offset somewhat by a slight rise in the number of workers who were employed during October.

The report is another sign the local job market remains weak, coming on the heels of last week’s report showing that the region lost jobs during October for the third straight month, although the size of the decline – 100 jobs – was tiny.

Local economists and the Cuomo administration, however, have raised questions about the accuracy of the jobs data and the unemployment numbers. Local economists have questioned the jobs data because of a big drop in jobs that are part of a subset in the business and professional services category, while the Cuomo administration has challenged the accuracy of the unemployment figures, which are based on a different survey than the jobs data.

Despite the stagnant job market, the number of people in Buffalo Niagara who were employed in October rose by less than 1 percent, to 529,000, the second-lowest level in at least 22 years.

That modest growth, however, offset a continued increase in the ranks of the unemployed, which swelled by more than 1 percent – or 4,900 people – to its highest level since at least 1990.

The number of unemployed workers in the region has jumped by 83 percent since 2007, just as the recession was beginning, adding about 21,500 workers in Buffalo Niagara to the ranks of the unemployed over the last five years, the Labor Department reported.

Buffalo Niagara had plenty of company in suffering an increase in unemployment over the last year. Among the state’s 11 major upstate metro areas, jobless rates jumped in all of them, but only Elmira had a bigger increase in joblessness over the last year than Buffalo Niagara.

The local unemployment rate of 8.2 percent was slightly less than the statewide figure of 8.3 percent but was higher than the 8 percent rate upstate and the national rate of 7.5 percent, without adjusting that data seasonally. Among New York’s 14 metro areas, only Binghamton, Elmira, Kingston and New York City had higher jobless rates.

Local jobless rate remains high

Buffalo Niagara region unemployment rate

October 8.2 percent

September 8.4 percent

August 8.8 percent

July 9.0 percent

June 8.8 percent

May 8.4 percent

Unemployment rates in WNY counties

Allegany 7.7 percent

Cattaraugus 8.3 percent

Chautauqua 8.4 percent

Erie 8.1 percent

Genesee 7.2 percent

Niagara 8.5 percent

Orleans 10.2 percent

Wyoming 7.8 percent

Source: State Labor Department