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Region's sluggish job growth stretched into June

The Buffalo Niagara region's sluggish job market didn't heat up in June.

The region added jobs at a 0.5 percent annual pace – three times slower than the nationwide increase – during June, extending a stretch of tepid hiring that began in March and has continued for four months, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.

The job growth was even slower during June in the private sector, which excludes government and many school jobs. Private sector job growth locally cooled to just 0.4 percent annually, tied for the second-slowest among the state's 15 major metropolitan areas. Only Elmira, which lost jobs over the past 12 months, had weaker hiring.

Despite the sluggish pace of hiring, the region's unemployment rate has hovered around 5 percent through May. The Labor Department will release the local jobless rate for June on Tuesday.

Among the bright spots in the June jobs report was a nearly 3 percent increase in health care and social assistance jobs, along with more than 2 percent growth in hiring at local bars, restaurants and hotels.

That strength, however, was offset by weakness in wholesale trade, where jobs fell by more than 2 percent, and in construction, which was down nearly 1 percent from a year ago.

Even with the modest job growth, the Buffalo Niagara region finished the month with more jobs than it has had during any June dating back to at least 1990, which is as far back as the Labor Department's modern-day records go. The region now has 567,700 jobs after adding 2,900 new positions during the past year.

Buffalo Niagara's 0.5 percent overall job growth, including government jobs, was the second-lowest among the state's 15 biggest metro areas, the Labor Department reported. Only Rochester, which added jobs at a 0.3 percent pace from June 2016 to June 2017, and Elmira, which lost jobs at a 0.5 percent annualized rate, had slower job growth rates.

During the first half of this year, job growth across the Buffalo Niagara region has averaged 0.8 percent, which is a third slower than the 1.2 percent gain during the first half of 2016. The pace of hiring during the first half of last year was the region's fastest since 1999. The 0.8 percent increase so far this year is the second-fastest since 2011 and the third-fastest in the last 16 years.

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