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Local jobless rate jumps to 5.8% as seasonal jobs end

The Buffalo Niagara unemployment rate jumped to 5.8 percent during January as holiday-related jobs came to an end, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.

The increase in the jobless rate, which rose from 5.6 percent in January 2016 and 5.1 percent in December, was expected. Jobless levels typically rise sharply from December to January as seasonal jobs tied to the holidays come to an end.

The increase from December to January this year was a little bigger than the jump last year, when unemployment rose from 5.1 percent in December to 5.6 percent in January, but it was not as severe as the increases of 1 percentage point or more that took place in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Even with the increase, the region's unemployment rate of 5.8 percent was the second-lowest for any January going back to 2007.

The region’s unemployment rate has returned to levels last seen in the months leading up to the last recession, which began to hit the local labor market in 2008. Unemployment peaked at 9.3 percent in January 2013 and has been steadily declining since then as the pace of hiring has slowly accelerated. The Buffalo Niagara region added jobs at a 1 percent annual pace last year – the fastest pace since 1999 – according to revised data released last week by the Labor Department.

"Manufacturing has really stabilized, and we've had some growth," said John Slenker, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo.

The decline in unemployment also has been helped by a shrinking labor pool, caused mainly by a stagnant population and a wave of retirements among older workers. At the end of last year, the local labor force is nearly 9 percent smaller than it was a year ago, while the number of unemployed people dipped by less than 1 percent. The Labor Department, which usually updates its labor force data at the same time it releases the unemployment rate, did not release January labor force statistics on Tuesday, with most state workers told to stay home because of the snowstorm.

While the jobless rate is at its second-lowest lowest level 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.

Jobless levels are higher in the Buffalo Niagara region than they are across much of the state and the nation, where unemployment in New York State was 5 percent in January and 5.1 percent across the United States. None of the jobless rates are adjusted for seasonal factors.

Most other upstate metro areas had stable or slightly lower unemployment rates than they did a year ago, with jobless levels holding steady at 5.2 percent in Rochester; Syracuse declining to 5.5 percent from 5.6 percent a year ago; and Albany dropping to 4.8 percent from 5.2 percent a year earlier.

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