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Lots of 'help wanted' signs, but how much hiring is really happening?

The Buffalo Niagara region’s slow but steady job growth continued into August.

The latest job data from the Labor Department shows that hiring during August in the Buffalo Niagara region slowed from its accelerated pace during June and July as employers are struggling to find qualified workers to fill open positions.

The region added jobs at a 0.7% annualized pace in August after a 0.9% rise during July and a 1% increase in June.

But job growth here remains more subdued than it is nationwide, and August’s increase is more in line with the subdued pace of hiring across the region during the previous three years.

Economists, however, warn against reading too much into one month’s job numbers, since they are based on preliminary data that can lead to significant revisions as more detailed information becomes available.

Even so, local job growth remained modest in August. The region added 4,100 jobs over the past year as hiring picked up in financial services, as well as in the education and health sectors and at local bars, hotels and restaurants.

Hiring was slightly stronger in the private sector, at 0.8%, but economists believe job growth is being held down because employers are having in finding qualified workers to fill open positions.

There was plenty of volatility in the August job market, too. Financial services was hot, but manufacturing was not.

Financial services, along with the education and health services sector, were the hot spots in the local job market during August, along with the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes bars, restaurants and hotels. That helped to offset a significant drop in construction and manufacturing jobs, along with softness in retail and technology jobs.

The subdued job growth across the Buffalo Niagara region during August was half the pace of hiring across the United States and well below the rate of hiring statewide.

That continued a long trend of subpar job growth – not once topping 1% annually – during the lengthy economic expansion. Over time, those seemingly small shortfalls between the growth rate here and the gains across the country can create a big opportunity gap.

Since 1990, the Buffalo Niagara job market has grown by just 3.3%. Meanwhile, the pace of hiring nationally has been 12 times faster – at 37.8%, according to a report issued Thursday by Canisius College economists George Palumbo and Mark Zaporowski. The professors also noted that most of that gap has been widening since the Great Recession ended a decade ago.

Hiring locally was tied with Binghamton as the sixth-fastest among the state’s 15 metro areas.

The rural portions of Western New York continue to miss out on the nation’s expanding economy. The rural counties are losing jobs, let alone keeping up with the growth in the Buffalo Niagara market or the even faster hiring across the nation.

The bright spot in August was in Wyoming County, where the number of jobs grew by 1.5% over the past year – the only one among the five rural counties to add jobs last month.

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