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Buffalo Niagara job growth cools a bit during March

Hiring cooled a bit in the Buffalo Niagara region during March, but it remained fairly robust by local standards.

The region added 5,100 jobs during March, buoyed by a flurry of hiring by local health care and social assistance firms, as well as temporary help agencies, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

The region added jobs at a 0.9 percent annual pace during March. That was the slowest annualized pace of job growth for any of the first three months of this year, and the first month in 2017 that it dropped below 1 percent. The pace of hiring through the first quarter still is running at about a 1.2 percent annualized pace, slightly slower than last year's 1.3 percent rise during the first quarter, but comfortably above the sub-1 percent annual job growth that has been the norm locally since 1999.

"It's a continuation of what's been going on," said John Slenker, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo. "This is a nice, sustainable growth trend we've been on."

The solid pace of hiring produced the most new jobs since a similarly strong bump in employment during the first four months of last year. The percent pace of hiring through the first three months of this year is 20 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 March 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 1.5 percent annual pace, while the state grew by 1.3 percent. None of the growth rates are adjusted for seasonal factors.

During March, 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 2 percent at health care and social assistance firms.

Those gains offset a nearly 5 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 almost 3 percent in wholesale trade, following a series of local warehouse closures.

Buffalo’s job growth was tied with Albany as the 10th strongest among the state’s 15 biggest metro areas, the Labor Department reported. Hiring was weaker only in Dutchess-Putnam counties, Elmira, Glens Falls and Syracuse.

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