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With unemployment at 4.5 percent, how low can it go?

From a historical perspective, the Buffalo Niagara job market is in a pretty good place.

The local unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent in June, declining almost a full percentage point over the past year, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.

Not since 2001 has the local jobless rate been lower during June. And it was only slightly higher than the modern-day record low of 4.1 percent set in June 2000.

It’s been a fairly rapid drop. The jobless rate in June was less than half of what it was in June 2012 – just four years ago – when 8.6 percent of the region’s workers were actively looking for work but couldn’t find a job.

The historic patterns in the local job market indicate that unemployment could drop a little more, but the days of steep declines are probably numbered. Going back over the past 26 years, the region’s best days for low unemployment came in 2000 and 2001, when jobless levels were steadily in the low 4 percent range, even dipping as low as 3.8 percent in October 2000.

So if you view that as the floor for the local job market – the point where unemployment gets about as low as it can go – then there’s still room for jobless levels to decline if the economy keeps growing, but there’s getting to be less room for improvement.


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