Buffalo Niagara’s unemployment rate fell sharply in July from a year ago, the second dose of good news on the local job front this month.
The region’s unemployment rate was 7.4 percent, compared with 8.9 percent a year ago, according to the state Department of Labor. It was the lowest rate for that month since 2008.
“We’re seeing a very nice improvement over the year,” said Tammy Marino, associate economist with the state Labor Department.
The July jobless rate here was below the U.S. rate of 7.7 percent last month, as well as the state’s rate of 7.6 percent. The figures are not seasonally adjusted.
“It’s dropped for the right reasons,” as more people are finding jobs, said Gary Keith, chief economist at M&T Bank Corp. “It wasn’t a story about a contracting labor force, which we’ve seen before.”
The Labor Department reported last week that the region’s number of private-sector jobs rose 1.8 percent in July from a year ago, led by growth in the leisure, hospitality, education and health services sectors. Total nonfarm jobs, which include the private and public sectors but not agriculture, were up 1.2 percent.
Employers over the past three years have been adding jobs on a consistent basis, contributing to the drop in the jobless rate, Marino said.
Keith said there have been “fewer obstacles” getting in the way of employers hiring lately. In the recent past, he said, they have dealt with uncertainty created by federal budget battles and global economic turmoil, particularly in Europe. Take away those types of impediments, and local employers feel more confident about their business plans and hiring.
“It’s not gangbusters growth, but it’s not the degree of uncertainty that keeps companies on the sidelines,” Keith said.
The pickup in hiring has absorbed some workers who have been out of the job market for a while, he said. He added that upbeat jobs reports can be self-fulfilling, by encouraging more unemployed workers to make an active effort to find a job.
Among the state’s 14 metro areas, Buffalo Niagara’s unemployment rate for July was tied with two other metro areas for sixth highest.
The region’s jobless rate was a marked improvement over the past few years, when rates were routinely above 8 percent. But it still remains much higher than the days before the Great Recession when the rate was often below 5 or 6 percent.