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Now hiring: Buffalo Niagara job market keeps growing

The Buffalo Niagara job market isn’t showing any signs of cooling off as summer ends.

The region added 9,200 jobs over the past year – a 1.6 percent annualized growth rate – as hiring picked up at local finance and insurance firms, construction companies 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 eight months of the year. That’s the fastest growth rate for that eight-month period since 1999 and more than two times faster than the 0.6 percent job growth during the same period last year.

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

Even so, the data shows that local job growth remained robust during August. The 1.6 percent job growth rate during August was the strongest for any August 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 in 19 years.

"I don't know of a single industry or occupation where it's easy for companies to find people," said John Slenker, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo. "The labor shortage is real."

Hiring was especially strong in the private sector, helping to offset sluggish job growth in government – the biggest individual sector within the local job market, partly because it includes teachers and other public school employees.

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 1.9 percent during August – the third time in the last four months that job growth reached that level.

Part of the spurt in hiring during August came from a nearly 10 percent surge in hiring at local construction firms. Education and health services expanded by just under 4 percent, while finance and insurance jobs also grew by nearly 4 percent.

That offset a 2.6 percent job loss at local stores and only a 0.2 percent increase in government jobs, which include public schools.

Job growth across the Buffalo Niagara region last month was stronger than the statewide average and ranked in a tie with New York City for fourth among the state’s 15 major metro areas, behind only Ithaca, Kingston and Glens Falls. But hiring here still trails the 1.7 percent growth across the country.

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