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Buffalo Niagara job growth cooling slightly

The Buffalo Niagara job market’s summertime hot streak continues to cool as winter approaches.

The region’s job growth, which topped 2 percent during the summer, cooled to an annual pace of 1.2 percent during November, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

Yet, while the pace of the job growth has slowed over the last few months, it remains strong by the standards of a region that hasn’t had a year of job growth that topped 1 percent since 1999.

Over the past 12 months, the region has added 6,900 jobs, pushing the total number of jobs in Erie and Niagara counties to its highest level in more than 25 years.

“This was a pretty good November,” said John Slenker, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo. “The best way to describe our local economy would be stable growth.”

While the growth rate has cooled since the summer, the region still is on pace for its strongest year of job growth in more than a quarter century. During the first 11 months of the year, the region has added jobs at a 1.7 percent annual pace, which is more than double the pace of hiring throughout the region in 2014.

“This is sustainable growth,” Slenker said. “It’s not a bubble. It’s the economy just chugging along.”

Almost half of the job growth during November came from the red-hot construction market, which had 15 percent more jobs than it did a year ago, pushing their employment to its highest level in more than 25 years. Hiring also was robust in education and health services, as well as at local restaurants and hotels.

That strength offset continued job losses by government agencies and local manufacturers. Hiring by local retailers during the holiday shopping build-up in November also was slower than last year.

Overall, though, hiring by the private sector, which excludes government jobs, remains robust, growing by 8,000 positions, or 1.7 percent, during the past year to hit another modern-day record during November. Private-sector employment locally is at its highest point in at least the last 25 years.

The jobs report shows that the construction industry continues to drive the local job market. Construction jobs grew by 3,300 positions over the past year as work progressed on major building projects, such as the SolarCity solar panel factory and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The slowdown in hiring that has occurred throughout the fall came after the region’s job market enjoyed its hottest four-month stretch since 1988, with job growth topping 2 percent during every month from May to August.

The region’s slow but steady growth in its job market now has continued for 38 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 67 straight months.

“It’s the longest growth streak we’ve ever had,” Slenker said.

While the November job growth is strong by local standards, it is sluggish on both a nationwide and statewide scale. Job growth across the United States and New York averaged 1.9 percent during November.

Among the state’s 14 major metropolitan areas, Buffalo Niagara’s job growth was tied with Albany for fifth-strongest. Only New York City, Glens Falls, Nassau-Suffolk counties and the Orange-Rockland-Westchester county area had faster job growth during November.