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Local unemployment rate holds steady at 6.2 percent in January

The Buffalo Niagara unemployment rate held steady at 6.2 percent in January as an uptick in hiring tempted more workers to start looking for a job, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.

The revised data from the Labor Department also indicates that the local jobless rate over the past year has been running higher than initially reported, averaging 5.4 percent throughout 2017, compared with 5 percent in the preliminary reports.

The main reason for the higher unemployment rate is that the new estimates indicate that more people are actively looking for a job locally than initially reported. The preliminary reports over the past year consistently showed a shrinking local labor pool. The revised data indicates that it has been steadily growing since last April.

So even though more people are working across the Buffalo Niagara region than the initial reports said, those gains have been offset because the revised data indicates that even more people are actively looking for work but haven't found one yet.

The fact that more people are joining the labor force is a positive sign for the Buffalo Niagara job market, even with the higher unemployment rate that accompanies it, because it indicates that workers are feeling more confident that they will be able to find a job if they start looking for one. Workers who are not actively seeking a job are not counted as being unemployed.

The January jobless data found that the size of the Buffalo Niagara labor force grew by more than 4 percent over the past year to its highest level for any January since 2015.

And while the number of people holding jobs grew by just under 5 percent, the number of unemployed workers held steady, but at a higher level than first reported.

The local unemployment rate is not adjusted for seasonal factors, so jobless levels tend to be higher during January and February, when the wave of holiday hiring at retailers winds down and before outdoor businesses ramp up their hiring as winter gives way to spring.

The January data also showed a sharp disparity in jobless levels between Erie and Niagara counties - the two geographic areas that make up the Buffalo Niagara metropolitan area. While unemployment ticked down to 5.8 percent in Erie County from 5.9 percent in January 2017, jobless levels were much higher in Niagara County at 7.5 percent, down from 7.6 percent in January 2017.

The jobless rate in the Buffalo Niagara region was the 11th highest among the state's 15 major metro areas during January. Only Utica, Binghamton, Glens Falls and Watertown had a higher unemployment rate in January.


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