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Job growth in region maintains robust track

The Buffalo Niagara region’s streak of solid job growth continued through August.

While the 1.9 percent annual growth in the employment market cooled to its slowest pace in four months, it still was robust by the region’s standards and extended a stretch that began in May, with job growth running at 1.9 percent or better.

“There’s widespread growth,” said John Slenker, the state Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo.

Buffalo Niagara added 10,300 jobs over the last year, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department. The 1.9 percent annual job growth, while down from growth rates of 2 percent or better from May to July, still was the fourth-strongest annualized increase in hiring since 1999.

The region is in the midst of its strongest hiring boom in more than a quarter century, fueled, in part, by the region’s building boom, which has added 3,200 construction jobs over the last year – nearly a third of the area’s total job growth. Much of the hiring stems from seasonal roadwork and big construction projects at SolarCity, HarborCenter and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

But the job market is strengthening in other areas, too. Factory jobs, long a drain on the local employment market, grew by 1 percent over the last year. The financial services sector grew by 4 percent, fueled by growth at banks and insurers. Hiring was strong at temporary help agencies, as well as at hotels and restaurants.

Job growth locally now has averaged 1.8 percent during the first eight months of this year, more than double the 0.7 percent increase in jobs the region experienced during all of 2014. If that pace continues through the rest of the year, 2015 would be the strongest year for job growth in Buffalo Niagara since 1989.

The local job growth, while strong by local standards, is fairly average on a nationwide scale. The United States added jobs at a 2.1 percent pace during August, slightly higher than the job growth locally. The pace of hiring locally was slightly stronger than the 1.8 percent increase statewide.

The number of private-sector jobs hit another all-time high for August, rising by 2.3 percent over the last year. Total employment, which includes government jobs, also hit a record high for August.

The 26,200 local construction jobs also were an all-time high for August and the highest for any month dating from the fall of 1990.

The region’s slow but steady growth in its job market now has continued for 36 straight months – the longest period of uninterrupted growth since 1990, according to Labor Department data. The private sector, which excludes government jobs, has grown for 64 straight months.

“I like to see this slow, steady growth,” Slenker said. “There are examples of economies that have done that for decades. If we could get into a pattern like that, it would be a very, very good thing.”

All of the hiring coming from the private sector, offsets continued softness in government jobs, especially at state agencies.

Among the state’s 14 major metropolitan areas, Buffalo Niagara’s job growth was tied with Rochester for second-strongest, trailing only the 2.3 percent increase in New York City.

The Labor Department also revised July’s job growth slightly upward, boosting the pace of the expansion during July to 2.4 percent from the 2.3 percent that it previously reported. The revision is based on more complete data from local unemployment reports.