The Buffalo Niagara job market stayed hot in May, the state Labor Department said.
The region added more than 9,000 jobs from May 2017 to May 2018 – its biggest annualized gain in nearly a decade – fueled by robust hiring in temporary help, as well as in education and health services. Construction employment also spiked as building projects took advantage of the the warmer May weather after a dreary April limited outdoor activity.
"It's a great time to get a job right now," said John Slenker, the labor department's regional economist in Buffalo. "If people aren't working, there's usually a barrier that keeps them from working."
The region added jobs at an annualized pace of 1.6 percent, just shy of the 1.7 percent growth rate in April that was the highest since 2012.
Still, Slenker warned that the monthly job numbers, which have been increasingly volatile in recent years, could be overstating the strength of the spike in hiring, especially in sectors like education and health services and temporary help, which grew at a better than 4 percent annualized pace.
Even so, he said the local job market remains strong, even though a stagnant labor force is making it hard for many companies to find qualified workers to fill their job openings.
"You go to stores – or anywhere – and you see help wanted signs," Slenker said. "Very few companies are laying off."
The 1.6 percent annualized pace of job growth was better than the 1.2 percent increase statewide and matched the growth rate nationally. Excluding government jobs, the private sector added jobs at a 1.9 percent annualized pace during May, matching the nationwide increase and topping the 1.4 percent private sector growth rate statewide.
Among the state's 15 major metro areas, the Buffalo Niagara region ranked fourth, trailing only Ithaca, Dutchess-Putman counties and Rochester.
The state report, which is based on a statewide survey of 18,000 businesses, has tended to report stronger gains in hiring than a less timely, but more comprehensive, set of employment data that many local economists consider to be a more accurate measure of the region's job market.