The Buffalo Niagara job market is still going strong.
The region added 6,800 jobs over the past year – a 1.2 percent annualized growth rate – as hiring picked up at local construction companies and in education and health services, according to new data for September 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 nine months of the year. That’s the fastest growth rate for that nine-month period since 1999 and more than twice as fast as 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, local job growth remains robust. The 1.2 percent job growth rate last month was the strongest for any September in eight years, giving the region more jobs at this time of year than it has had since at least 1990. And while the region is in the midst of its strongest nine-month stretch of job growth in 19 years, the pace of hiring did cool a bit last month, dropping to its slowest since December.
"I think the real story with the labor market here is that it's in this period of sustainable, slow growth," said John Slenker, the labor department's regional economist in Buffalo, who has been studying the local job market for nearly three decades. "It's a different job market. The patient is finally healthy."
Private-sector hiring is even stronger. 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 1.4 percent during September – the ninth straight month that job growth reached that level.
Part of the spurt in hiring during September came from a nearly 7 percent surge in hiring at local construction firms. Education and health services expanded by a little more than 4 percent, while finance and insurance jobs were up more than 2 percent. That offset a 1.1 percent job loss at local stores and a 1 percent dip at local bars, restaurants and hotels.
Job growth across the Buffalo Niagara region last month was stronger than the statewide average and ranked fifth among the state’s 15 major metro areas, behind only Ithaca, New York City, Dutchess-Putnam counties and Rochester.
But hiring in the Buffalo Niagara region still lags behind the 1.7 percent growth across the country, continuing a long trend of subpar job growth during times of economic expansion.