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Help wanted: Buffalo Niagara job growth remains strong

The Buffalo Niagara job market stayed strong in June.

The region added 8,000 jobs over the past year – a 1.4 percent annualized growth rate – as hiring picked up at local finance and insurance firms, business services and in education and health services, according to new data from the state Labor Department.

The data shows that hiring has been robust by Buffalo Niagara standards throughout 2018, with job growth averaging 1.4 percent through the first half of the year. That’s the fastest first-half growth rate since 1995 and nearly three times faster than the 0.5 percent job growth during the first six months of last year.

One word of caution: The monthly job numbers have become increasingly volatile, and economists have warned that they could be overstating the strength of the hiring wave.

Even so, economists say the local job market is strong.

"We're running very close to full employment," said John Slenker, the state Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo. "There are more jobs than there are people looking for them."

The 1.4 percent job growth rate during June was the strongest for any June since 1999, giving the region more jobs at this time of year than it has had since at least 1990. And with job growth reaching at least 1.3 percent during each of the last six months, it is the strongest six-month stretch of increased hiring that the region has experienced since 1999.

Hiring by private-sector businesses – which excludes government jobs – has been even stronger than the Buffalo Niagara region’s overall job growth rate. Private-sector hiring grew by an annualized rate of 1.6 percent during June, extending the sector’s streak of job growth that now has topped 1.5 percent for six straight months.

Much of the spurt in hiring during June came from the service sector. Education and health services expanded by just under 5 percent, while professional and business service jobs grew by 2.5 percent. Finance and insurance jobs also grew by 3 percent. That offset a 2.1 percent job loss at local stores and a slowdown in hiring at the region’s restaurants and hotels.

Job growth across the Buffalo Niagara region during June was in line with the statewide average and ranked in a tie for fifth among the state’s 15 major metro areas, behind only Ithaca, New York City, Orange-Rockland-Westchester counties, Rochester and Dutchess-Putnam counties. But hiring here still isn’t growing as fast as it is across the country, where job growth reached 1.6 percent last month.

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