The Buffalo Niagara job market stayed strong during February, adding jobs at one of the fastest rates over the past two years, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.
The robust job growth meant that the region added 6,900 new jobs over the past year – a growth rate of 1.2 percent that was nearly double the region's overall growth rate for all of last year.
But John Slenker, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo, cautioned that the monthly job numbers, which have become increasingly volatile in the last few years, are likely to be overstating the scope of the uptick in hiring, given the region's stagnant population and tight supply of available workers.
"I do believe the economy is doing pretty well," Slenker said. "But I believe we're overstating the private sector by a little bit."
Slenker said he believes the growth rates will be revised downward once more detailed information on unemployment claims from employers becomes available. Preliminary revisions resulted in January's growth rate being revised downward to 1.3 percent from the 1.4 percent that was reported just two weeks ago. Those figures will be revised further in early 2019.
Even so, Slenker said the Buffalo Niagara job market remains strong, with employers looking to hire and often struggling to find qualified workers to fill their openings.
"The numbers are pointing toward a strong job market," he said. "We're at a stage in the economy where we're having trouble finding workers."
The spurt of hiring during February was led by the region's service sector. Professional and business services jobs grew by nearly 4 percent, led by a surge in hiring within a category that includes temporary help agencies. Financial services were up by almost 2 percent. Education and health services grew by a little more than 2 percent.
The uptick in hiring was fairly broad based, with the only decline in jobs coming from the wholesale and retail trade sectors, as well as the region's tiny information segment.
The region's 1.2 percent job growth from February 2017 to February 2018 was slightly slower than the nationwide growth rate of 1.6 percent, but it was stronger than the statewide increase of 1 percent.
Among the state's 15 major metro areas, only Ithaca, Dutchess-Putnam counties and New York City had faster growth rates during February.