The Buffalo Niagara region’s slow but steady job growth continued into April.
The region added jobs at a 0.7 percent annual pace over the last year, pushing employment levels to their highest for any April since 2008, before the Great Recession began taking a toll on the local job market.
But the recovery by the region’s job market has been sluggish compared with the growth that the nation and the rest of the state are experiencing. Job growth locally is less than half of the 1.7 percent expansion across the country, and is almost a third slower than the 1 percent employment gain statewide over the last year.
John Slenker, the state Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo, said the region’s shrinking population in recent years makes it difficult for job growth here to keep pace with increases nationwide, where the population is growing.
“We’re growing, and we’re actually growing (jobs) faster than the population is,” Slenker said. “Overall, it was a very nice report.”
Much of the region’s job growth last month came from seasonal industries that got a boost from the long-awaited rise in temperatures during April. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the construction industry, which had an April hiring surge that pushed its combined workforce to a level that was 7 percent higher than a year ago.
“The snow stopped, and they ran out of the gate,” Slenker said.
Hiring also was strong in educational services, which expanded by almost 2 percent over the last year, while professional and business services grew by 1.5 percent annually, with growth especially strong for workers with professional, scientific or technical skills. Local retailers have added jobs at a 1.6 percent annual pace.
Those gains more than offset pockets of lingering weakness in the local job market, led by a nearly 4 percent drop in jobs in the financial services industry, which has been hit hard by cutbacks at local banks and mortgage servicing firms. Manufacturing also continued its decades-long decline, shedding jobs at a 0.8 percent annual pace over the last year.
Job growth in the private sector was slightly stronger than the overall gains, rising by 0.8 percent over the last year as those gains were partly offset by job cuts by the federal government and local schools.
The job growth in Buffalo Niagara was the third-strongest in upstate New York, trailing only Kingston and Poughkeepsie, where jobs increased by at least 1.3 percent. Job growth across the 52 upstate counties averaged 0.3 percent.
“More than 90 percent of (the state’s) job growth was concentrated downstate, mainly in New York City, while upstate lagged far behind,” said E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany.
Most metro areas show job gains.
Job-growth rate for Buffalo Niagara and other metropolitan areas from April 2013 to April 2014:
New York City +1.6 percent
Nassau-Suffolk +0.8 percent
Buffalo Niagara +0.7 percent
Utica-Rome +0.4 percent
Rochester +0.3 percent
Albany +0.3 percent
Syracuse -0.3 percent
Binghamton -0.6 percent
Ithaca -0.8 percent
Source: State Labor Department