All those “help wanted” signs don’t lie.
It’s been 18 years since the Buffalo Niagara region’s unemployment rate was as low as July’s 4.5 percent, according to new data released Tuesday by the state Labor Department.
The number of workers in the Buffalo Niagara region holding jobs is at a 10-year high. And you’d have to go back to 2000 to find a time when there were fewer people are actively looking for a job but unable to find one.
That makes for a tight job market, with companies scrambling to find workers at a time when the economy is strong and businesses are looking to hire.
With the region’s population stagnant and aging baby boomers steadily heading into retirement, the pool of available workers that has been steadily shrinking for almost 20 years. That pushed unemployment sharply lower for the third straight month.
Fewer workers and healthy hiring are pushing the Buffalo Niagara unemployment rate down to levels last seen in the early 2000s.
The drop in jobless levels mirrors the uptick in hiring. Local companies added jobs at a 1.4 percent annualized pace – the strongest growth in a decade – according to a separate set of employment data from the state Labor Department released last week.
The wave of hiring means that the number of workers across the region now holding jobs is at its highest level since 2009.
With businesses hiring, the pool of available workers is getting stretched thin. While 2,200 new people found jobs in July, the number of workers who were actively looking for a job but couldn’t find one shrunk to an 18-year low.
And with the region’s overall population stagnating, there isn’t an influx of new workers to fill all of the job openings at local businesses and to offset the wave of retirements among baby boomers. That’s caused the local labor pool to shrink by more than 6 percent over the past decade.
Unemployment across the Buffalo Niagara region is lower than it’s been during any July since 2000, but it still is higher than it is across most of New York and the rest of the country.
The region’s jobless rate is higher than the 4.2 percent rates statewide and nationally. Among the state’s 15 biggest metro areas, the Buffalo Niagara unemployment rate is tied for the 12th highest, better only than Binghamton, Elmira and Watertown.