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Buffalo Niagara region added 2,300 jobs over last year

Buffalo Niagara added 2,300 jobs in May as compared to a year ago, an increase of 0.4 percent, keeping up a slow-but-steady pattern the region has developed.

Buffalo Niagara’s growth rate trailed the 1 percent statewide net gain in jobs from a year ago, as well as the 1.6 percent net increase nationally, according to the state Department of Labor.

In private sector jobs alone, Buffalo Niagara had a net gain of 4,300, or 0.9 percent, from a year ago. The growth offset a loss of jobs in the public sector, which lost 2,000 positions compared to a year ago.

Manufacturing jobs in the region dropped 1.7 percent from a year ago, to 50,600, which was the lowest May figure for that sector since 2010. It was eighth straight month that the region’s manufacturing job count has declined from the previous year.

Meanwhile, financial services jobs were up 0.9 percent from a year ago, to 32,200. And professional and business services jobs were up 2.3 percent.

John Slenker, regional economist for the state Labor Department, said that while the monthly year-over-year job increases the region has recorded may lag other places, Buffalo Niagara has managed to continue adding jobs over a prolonged period.

Since the start of 2011, the region’s total jobs have increased on a year-over-year basis in 28 of those 29 months. And its private-sector job count has risen for 38 straight months.

“Would I like to see faster job growth? Of course,” Slenker said. “But you’re seeing these very steady, very positive signs.”

In terms of job gains, “It’s not so much the amount that’s impressive, it’s that it keeps going in the right direction,” he said.

Outside of Buffalo Niagara, Cattaraugus County reported a 0.3 percent increase in jobs from a year ago. Allegany County recorded a 0.1 percent decline, while Chautauqua had a decrease of 0.2 percent. Job totals for Genesee and Wyoming counties were unchanged from a year ago.

Nationally, the U.S. Labor Department reported applications for unemployment benefits rose by 18,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 354,000.

Despite the gain, the level remains consistent with moderate job growth. The Labor Department said that the less volatile four-week average increased by 2,500 to 348,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Since January, they have fallen 6 percent. That suggests companies are cutting fewer jobs.

At the same time, hiring has been steady, despite an increase in taxes on Jan. 1 and steep federal spending cuts that began in March. Solid consumer spending and a rebound in housing have helped the economy weather the fiscal drag.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Job picture

Area’s growth trails state, national figures

Job growth from May 2012 to May 2013:

Nassau-Suffolk 2.0%

New York City 1.6%

Syracuse 1.1%

Ithaca 0.9%

Rochester 0.5%

Buffalo Niagara 0.4%

Albany 0.4%

Utica-Rome 0.2%

Binghamton -1.0%

Source: State Labor Department