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Hiring heats up in February as region adds 7,000 jobs

Buffalo Niagara employers are on a hiring spree to start 2017.

The region added 7,000 jobs during February, buoyed by a flurry of hiring at local financial services firms, health and social services companies and temporary help agencies, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

The February hiring spurt, which added jobs at a 1.3 percent annual pace, followed a strong January, where hiring grew at a 1.5 percent annual pace even after the Labor Department revised its hiring estimate for the month downward by 600 jobs.

"This is a good thing," said John Slenker, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo. "It's pointed in the right direction."

The two-month hiring spurt produced the most new jobs since a similarly strong bump in employment during March and April of last year. The 1.4 percent pace of hiring through the first two months of this year is 40 percent stronger than the 1 percent job growth the region experienced throughout 2016, although short-term hiring patterns can be volatile.

The uptick in hiring left the Buffalo Niagara region with more jobs than it has had during any February dating back to at least 1990, which is as far back as the Labor Department's modern-day records go.

Even with the faster pace of hiring, the region continues to add fewer jobs than the nation as a whole. The nation added jobs at a 1.7 percent annual pace, while the state grew by 1.4 percent.

During February, the local hiring was led by an 8 percent increase in jobs within an employment category that includes temporary help agencies. Hiring was up by more than 3 percent at health care and social assistance firms, as well as at local bars, restaurants and hotels.

Those gains offset a 4 percent drop in construction jobs as work on some of the big building projects, such as the SolarCity solar panel factory in South Buffalo, wound down. Hiring also was down more than 3 percent in wholesale trade, following a series of local warehouse closures.

Buffalo's job growth ranked 7th among the state's 15 biggest metro areas, the Labor Department reported. Hiring was more robust in Glens Falls, Ithaca, Nassau-Suffolk counties, Watertown, Albany and New York City over the past 12 months.

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