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A chilly February for hiring in Buffalo Niagara

The Buffalo Niagara job market remained cool in February, but the State Labor Department now says January was better than it originally reported.

Even with the changes, the latest job data from the Labor Department shows that the Buffalo Niagara employment market continues to grow slowly as employers struggle to find qualified workers to fill open positions.

The latest data shows that the region added jobs at a 0.25 percent annualized pace during February – the slowest growth rate for any February in the last six years.

But the revised data for January, based on more extensive information filed with the state by employers, showed that January’s job growth improved by more than 1,000 jobs since the initial report two weeks ago. That put the January job growth rate at 0.6 percent, up from the 0.4 percent originally reported.

The monthly job numbers are based on more timely, but increasingly volatile, data collected from a monthly survey of 18,000 business statewide, and economists have noted that previous job reports have been subject to significant revisions as more extensive data becomes available.

With that said, the preliminary numbers showed that the region added 1,400 jobs over the past year as hiring jumped at local construction companies and in education and health services.

That offset a big drop in jobs at temporary help agencies – possibly because temporary workers are finding full-time jobs in the strong labor market – and declines in employment in wholesale trade and at local bars, restaurants and hotels.

“There’s been a slowdown, but that’s to be expected when employers are having trouble filling jobs,” said Timothy Glass, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo. “The economy is moving along. We continue to produce jobs and fill them.”

Hiring by private-sector businesses – which excludes government jobs – was on par with the Buffalo Niagara region’s overall job growth rate. Private-sector hiring grew by an annualized rate of 0.3 percent in February. The February private-sector job gains were half the size of the upwardly revised growth at private employers during January.

“The economy is moving along,” Glass said.

The bright spot in the Buffalo Niagara job market during February was the burst of hiring at local construction firms, which added jobs at a nearly 4 percent annualized pace for the second straight month.

Manufacturers had a solid month, adding jobs at a 0.6 percent annualized pace, while education and health services grew by 0.8 percent.

But those gains were hurt by job losses in other parts of the economy. Hiring at at local bars, restaurants and hotels fell by 0.3 percent, while employment at local wholesalers dropped by 1 percent and retail jobs shrunk by 0.5 percent.

Job growth across the Buffalo Niagara region during February was less than a third of the statewide average and less than one-fifth of the pace of hiring nationally, continuing a long trend of sub-par job growth during the long economic expansion.

Hiring locally was tied with Elmira for the third-slowest among the state’s 15 major metro areas, topping only Utica and Watertown.

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