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The unemployment rate in the Buffalo Niagara region inched downward to 8.4 percent during September, but the number of people without jobs remained at the highest level since the early 1980s as hiring stalled, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.
The unemployment rate, while down from 8.8 percent in August, is well above the 7.7 percent rate from September 2011, though Labor Department economists caution that the two are not directly comparable, because they have not been adjusted for seasonal factors. September’s unemployment rate extended a nine-month streak that has seen monthly unemployment rates above 8 percent.
The number of workers holding jobs fell to its lowest level since at least the 1980s, while the number of unemployed workers rose to a more than 20-year high, the Labor Department said.
The report is another sign the local job market has cooled since the start of spring, and it comes on the heels of last week’s report showing that the region lost jobs during September for the second straight month. The region lost 400 jobs, a 0.1 percent decline, during September after shedding 100 jobs in August. It was the first time the number of jobs had declined for two consecutive months since July and August 2010.
With the number of jobs on the decline, the number of people in the Buffalo Niagara region who were employed during September fell by a little less than 1 percent to a more than 22-year low of 523,600. Nearly all of those workers whose jobs disappeared in the last year – plus around 3,500 others – joined the ranks of the unemployed, which also grew by nearly 1 percent and hit its highest level since at least 1990.
The number of unemployed workers in the region has jumped by 80 percent since 2007, before the recession began, adding about 22,000 workers in the Buffalo Niagara region to the ranks of the unemployment rolls over the last five years, the Labor Department reported.
If past trends hold true this year, unemployment should decline a bit between now and November because of seasonal holiday-related hiring, said John Slenker, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Niagara region was far from alone in suffering an increase in unemployment over the last year. Among the state’s 11 major upstate metro areas, jobless rates jumped in all of them except Utica, but only Elmira had a bigger increase in joblessness over the past year than the Buffalo Niagara region.
The local unemployment rate of 8.4 percent was higher than the statewide jobless rate of 8.2 percent and the national rate of 7.6 percent, without adjusting those figures for seasonal factors. Among New York’s 14 metro areas, only Binghamton, Elmira, Kingston and New York City had higher jobless rates.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com