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Job growth in region continues to be sluggish

The Buffalo Niagara region’s tepid job growth continued into March, with a sluggish start to the construction season and government cutbacks putting a damper on the local job market.

The region added 1,400 jobs from March 2012 to March 2013, a 0.3 percent annual increase that was just a third of the statewide increase over the past year and just one-fifth of the growth nationally, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.

But the Buffalo Niagara region actually was a bit of a standout in upstate New York. The 0.3 percent annual growth rate locally was slightly better than the 0.2 percent increase across upstate and was tied for sixth-best among upstate’s 11 major metropolitan areas.

The local job markets had pockets of strength. Hiring by local hotels, bars and restaurants jumped by 4.5 percent over the past year, while hiring for professional and business services, which includes temporary help agencies, jumped by 2.4 percent. Financial services also were robust, adding jobs at a 1.6 percent annual pace.

The service sector continues to be a source of strength for the local job market, as well as statewide, especially in the private sector.

“The recent job growth was fairly broad-based,” said Tammy Marino, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Rochester. “The economy is acting as it should at this stage in the recovery.”

The number of private-sector jobs locally grew by 0.7 percent during the past year, while service jobs within the private sector increased more than twice as fast, rising by 1.5 percent.

But that strength was mostly offset by pockets of weakness, led by a nearly 11 percent drop in construction hiring over the past year as this year’s persistent wintry weather stood in marked contrast to last year’s early start to spring. Tighter government budgets also had a significant impact, with government jobs sliding by 1.9 percent, led by steep cuts at local schools and a 2 percent drop in federal government jobs.

Educational services firms shed 2.5 percent of their jobs, while hospital employment dropped by 1.3 percent. The number of factory jobs, which had rebounded sharply last year after absorbing painful losses during the recession, fell 1.2 percent.

The pace of job growth varied widely across rural portions of Western New York, ranging from a 1.2 percent jump in Cattaraugus County to a 0.5 percent decline in Genesee County. In between, the job market grew by 0.8 percent in Wyoming County, while it improved by 0.4 percent in Chautauqua County. The number of jobs was flat in Allegany County.

The Labor Department also said the pace of job growth locally was slightly stronger than originally reported during February, with jobs added at a 0.3 percent annual pace, up from the 0.2 percent increase that was based on preliminary data.