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Local unemployment falls to nine-year low of 4.7% in August

Unemployment in the Buffalo Niagara region remained at a nine-year low during August, with the jobless rate dropping to 4.7 percent, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.

The August drop pushed the unemployment rate below 5 percent for the fourth consecutive month and just the fifth time since the recession began in 2007.

It also was the first time since the fall of 2007 that the local jobless rate has been below 5 percent for four straight months.

The region’s unemployment rate has been falling steadily for the past four years, fueled by moderate job growth and a shrinking labor pool caused mainly by a stagnant population and a wave of retirements among older workers.

The local jobless rate peaked at 8.4 percent during August 2012 and has been falling steadily since then. The unemployment rate was 5.2 percent in August 2015.

The local unemployment rate was up slightly from 4.4 percent in May and June, but down from 4.9 percent in July. But those months are not directly comparable because the jobless data is not adjusted for seasonal factors.

Jobless levels locally are at their lowest levels since 2007, but still would have to decline further to approach the modern-day lows that were set in 2000, when unemployment dipped as low as 3.8 percent in October 2000 and hovered between that and 4.3 percent for the final 10 months of 2000.

The decline in unemployment comes as the region has slowly but steadily added jobs since late 2010, including an increase of 7,700 jobs from August 2015 to August 2016.

The unemployment numbers, which are based on a different survey than the job data, can be fairly volatile and also come with a margin of error that approaches 0.5 percentage points one way or the other.

The drop in the jobless rate left unemployment below the statewide rate of 4.9 percent and the national rate of 5 percent. None of the jobless rates are adjusted for seasonal factors.

Other upstate metro areas also had declines in unemployment, with the jobless rate in Rochester falling to 4.5 percent from 4.8 percent in August 2015; Syracuse declining to 4.5 percent from 5 percent a year ago; and Albany slipping to 4 percent from 4.3 percent a year ago.

The drop in the Buffalo Niagara jobless rate stemmed from a combination of fewer unemployed people and a rising number of individuals with jobs. The number of people in the region who don’t have a job but were actively looking for one fell by 10 percent, or 2,800 people, from August 2015 to August 2016, the Labor Department said. That was the lowest for any August since 2007.

At the same time, the number of people who were employed last month rose by less than 1 percent, or 3,500 people, to the highest level for any August since 2010. That left the pool of available workers in the Buffalo Niagara region at a three-year high, although that still is 6 percent below its pre-recession peak.


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