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Region’s jobless rate falls to 6.4 percent in February

The unemployment rate for the Buffalo Niagara region fell to 6.4 percent in February, from 7.5 percent one year earlier, marking the 25th consecutive month of year-over-year declines for the area’s jobless rate.

“This is another month showing that this is not a fluke and, more important, that we’re not slowing down,” said Frederick Floss, a professor of economics and finance at SUNY Buffalo State and a senior fellow with the Fiscal Policy Institute in Albany.

The Buffalo Niagara region in February had the ninth-lowest unemployment rate among the 15 largest metro areas in the state, according to data released Tuesday by the state Labor Department. The lowest unemployment rate was in Ithaca, at 4.3 percent, and the highest rate was Watertown-Fort Drum, at 8.7 percent.

The state’s unemployment rate fell from 7.5 percent to 6.4 percent over the past 12 months, and New York’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.8 percent for February was its lowest for any month since September 2008.

The number of people without work in Buffalo Niagara fell from 41,500 in February 2014 to 34,900 in February this year. But as the unemployment rate declined, the size of the workforce in the region also fell, from 512,000 in February 2014 to 510,800 in February 2015.

Floss said the numbers reflect churn, as people come and go from the job market, as well as people who age out of the work force.

The Buffalo Niagara region is on track with, or is surpassing, its upstate New York peers in recovering the jobs lost in the recession, Floss said, though the region lags the state and country as a whole. Over the last 12 months, for example, the number of people employed in New York rose by 46,300 and in the United States rose by nearly three million.

Looking at the unemployment rate by county, Erie County’s jobless rate was 6.1 percent in February, down from 7.2 percent one year earlier; Niagara County’s was 7.5 percent, down from 8.6 percent in February 2014; Allegany County’s was 6.7 percent; Cattaraugus County’s was 7.2 percent; Chautauqua County’s was 7.2 percent; Genesee County’s was 6.6 percent; Orleans County’s was 7.8 percent; and Wyoming County’s was 8 percent.

“It does say that more people are going back to work in Western New York,” Floss said.

email: swatson@buffnews.com