The job market in the Buffalo Niagara region brightened a bit last month.
The latest unemployment figure released Tuesday is at a two-year low of 7.7 percent, pushed down by a more robust seasonal job market.
While unemployment is still higher here than across the state and nation, things are improving.
“We’re seeing seasonal hiring begin to pick up,” said Tammy L. Marino, the state Labor Department’s regional economist in Rochester.
Darien Lake, for instance, expects to hire about 1,600 seasonal workers this summer, said Cara Tullock, the amusement park’s human resources manager. Construction projects across the region have also added jobs.
Marino also said employers, who had been cautious about adding workers during a sluggish economic recovery, now may be starting to feel more confident about hiring.
In addition, temporary-help firms increased hiring. Companies often turn to temporary help in the early stages of a recovery.
But while the region’s seasonally unadjusted jobless rate was an improvement from 8.4 percent last April, jobless levels locally remain higher than they are both nationally and across New York, where job growth has been more robust.
The dip in the unemployment rate brought jobless levels locally back down to where they were in 2011, although they remain much higher than they were during the decade leading up to the Great Recession, when rates typically ran between 4 and 6 percent.
Most of the improvement during April came from an accelerated pace of hiring, with the region adding jobs at a 0.8 percent annual pace – double the annualized growth during February and March.
That burst of hiring helped pull the number of unemployed people down by 7 percent to a five-year April low of 43,500, although the region still has 16,500 more jobless workers than it did in April 2007, before the recession started.
Despite the improvement, unemployment in Buffalo Niagara remains high by historical standards, with the 7.7 percent jobless rate ranking as the fourth-highest for any April since 1990.
The jobless rate here is slightly higher than the upstate average of 7.6 percent and is significantly higher than the downstate average of 7.1 percent.
It also is higher than the 7.1 percent seasonally unadjusted rate nationally and the 7.3 percent rate statewide.
Among the state’s 14 major metro areas, Buffalo Niagara’s unemployment rate was tied with Syracuse, Kingston and New York City for the seventh-lowest. Only Binghamton, Elmira, Glens Falls and Utica had higher unemployment rates.
One reason for Buffalo Niagara’s stubbornly high unemployment rate is the tepid pace of job growth coming out of the recession.
The region still had 1,900 fewer jobs last month than it did in April 2008, just as the recession was taking hold.
Many of those job losses came at local factories, where displaced workers often have struggled to find a new niche in a more service-oriented economy.
While the recession officially ended almost four years ago, the sluggish job growth during the recovery means that the local economy has not been generating new jobs fast enough to make a more substantial dent in jobless levels.
Unemployment rate falls
Buffalo Niagara unemployment rate
December 2012 8.4%
November 2012 7.8%
October 2012 7.9%
September 2012 8.1%
August 2012 8.4%
July 2012 8.9%
June 2012 8.5%
May 2012 8.2%
Unemployment rates in WNY counties
Source: State Labor Department