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Buffalo Niagara unemployment rate hits nine-year low of 5.7% in January

The unemployment rate in the Buffalo Niagara region hit a nine-year low of 5.7 percent in January as a steady wave of hiring pushed the number of people with jobs to its highest level since the recession.

The unemployment report, released Tuesday by the state Labor Department, showed that the steady decline in jobless levels is continuing into this year, although revised data from last year indicated that the drop in unemployment was not quite as steep as first reported.

Despite the improvement in joblessness, the region’s unemployment rate remained higher than the 5.3 percent national rate and the 5.5 percent rate across all of New York.

Over the last year, Buffalo Niagara’s unemployment rate has dropped from 6.7 percent in January 2015 and has declined steadily for more than 3½ years since joblessness peaked at 9.4 percent in February 2012.

The local unemployment rate first fell below 6 percent in September 2014 and dipped as low as 4.9 percent in October 2015 before rising during the winter as seasonal jobs disappeared.

“We’re doing fairly well,” said John Slenker, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo.

A separate Labor Department report released last week included a steep downward revision of job growth for Buffalo Niagara, slashing the annual pace of job growth to 0.5 percent from the original 1.6 percent. The revision turned 2015 from what originally was believed to the strongest year for job growth in 16 years to one that had the slowest pace of hiring since 2010.

The unemployment numbers, however, are derived from a different survey, and their revisions were far less severe, Slenker said.

During January, a slowly strengthening job market continued to keep unemployment low. Despite a sharp downward revision in the region’s job numbers last week, the Buffalo Niagara job market still had 2,200 more jobs than it did a year ago.

The number of people who were employed in Buffalo Niagara in January grew by 1.3 percent in the last year – to the highest level for any January since 2009. About 6,700 more people were employed in Buffalo Niagara in January 2016 than in January 2015.

With hiring slowly rising, the number of people who were actively looking for work but couldn’t find it tumbled by 15 percent in the last year to its lowest level for any January since 2001, which predates the previous two recessions.

Among New York’s 15 metropolitan areas listed by the state, the unemployment rate in Buffalo Niagara was the ninth-lowest. The unemployment rates were higher in New York City, Utica, Watertown, Elmira, Glens Falls and Binghamton.