The Buffalo Niagara job market continues to sputter.
The region lost jobs for the second straight month during September, although the scope of the decline remained small, totalling 400 jobs over the past year, the state Labor Department said Thursday. Revised figures for August also showed that the small decline that month was less than initially reported, just 100 jobs.
Still, the weakening of the local job market is a concerning sign, especially at a time when the rest of the state is adding jobs at a moderate pace and only four of the state’s 14 major metropolitan areas lost jobs during September.
“That is worrisome,” said John Slenker, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo, while also noting that the size of the declines is slight.
It also is a major reversal of the pattern that the local job market has followed since the recession ended three years ago. While the Buffalo Niagara region initially enjoyed job growth that was more robust than many other areas, the employment market has consistently slowed over the past year, to the point where the decline in jobs marks Western New York as one of the weakest job markets in the state.
“We were doing better,” Slenker said. “We’re slowing down now.”
Still, the overall decline is small. The 400-job decline amounts to a drop of 0.1 percent, and the revised August decline of 100 jobs indicates that the midsummer job market was close to stagnant.
The September job numbers painted a picture of a local job market that is divided into strong and weak sectors. Construction remains robust, adding 800 jobs from September 2011 to September 2012, a 3.5 percent increase. Manufacturing continued its post-recession rebound, gaining 1,200 jobs over the past year, a 2.3 percent increase. The trade sector also was expanding, with employment in wholesale trade rising by 3.3 percent and the number of retail trade jobs growing by 1.2 percent.
But the service sector, which had been the engine for the region’s job growth for most of the past decade, is slumping, with the number of service jobs sliding by 0.5 percent overall. That drop was fueled by a 2.5 percent decline in jobs within the financial sector and a 3 percent drop in leisure and hospitality positions. Both sectors previously had been sources of strength for the local job market. Professional and business services jobs tumbled by 7.5 percent.
The local job losses stood in stark contrast to the modest job growth taking place throughout the country and across the state. Nationwide, job growth during September hit 1.4 percent, without adjusting for seasonal factors, while it was even stronger in New York, at 1.6 percent. Across upstate, job growth averaged 0.5 percent during September.
Among the state’s major metro areas, only Binghamton, with a 0.3 percent decline, Kingston, down 0.5 percent and Elmira’s 2.8 percent drop were weaker than the Buffalo Niagara region during September.
The pace of job growth varied widely across rural portions of Western New York, ranging from a 1.5 percent improvement in Cattaraugus County to a 0.8 percent decline in Wyoming County. In between, Genesee County added jobs at a 0.9 percent annual pace, while the job market was flat in Allegany County and the number of jobs slid by 0.7 percent in Chautauqua County.