After 55 straight months, monthly over-the-year drops in unemployment rate ended in late 2017
For three straight months at the end of 2017, the Steuben County jobless rate failed to improve on its monthly marks from 12 months earlier.
This is notable because Steuben County had gone nearly five years, since February 2013, of experiencing 12-month declines in its monthly unemployment rate, according to the New York state Department of Labor.
Prior to October 2017, Steuben County went 55 straight months of having a lower monthly unemployment rate compared to the same month, one year before.
For example, here are Steuben County's jobless rates since 2012 for the month of September.
September, 2012: 9 percent September, 2013: 7.5 percent September, 2014: 6.1 percent September, 2015: 5.7 percent September, 2016: 5.5 percent September, 2017: 5.3 percent
That all changed the following month. State jobs data for October had the unemployment rate at 5.3 percent, the same as the mark for October 2016. The jobless rate climbed to 5.9 percent in November, more than a half point higher than the 5.3 percent mark in November 2016. The numbers got worse in December, with a Steuben County unemployment rate of 6.2 percent compared to 5.9 in December 2016.
The significance of this three-month trend is debatable. The county’s unemployment rate could get back on track this month, continuing its slow but steady climb out of the Great Recession of 2008-09. A factor to consider is a rebounding resident civilian labor pool. December’s county labor force included 42,500 residents, some 700 more than a year earlier. November’s labor force was even larger, at 43,000 people.
Evidence of more people getting back in the jobs market and looking for work is the reason a state labor official is not panicking about recent unemployment rates for Steuben County.
“Yes the past three months of data have broken a nearly five-year trend of over the year declines in the unemployment rate,” acknowledged Christian Harris, a Southern Tier labor analyst with the state labor department.
“As we’ve discussed in the past, the swelling resident labor force numbers is one of the few reason’s I’m not overly concerned at his point,” Harris continued. “Worker shortages are plaguing nearly all labor markets nationwide resulting in limited unemployment rate changes or even slight reversals.”
A key for Steuben County is matching job opportunities with qualified applicants, Harris said. The labor department recently reported approximately 800 “job orders” or openings in Steuben County. Harris said 800 openings is considered a strong number of openings.
Meanwhile, the New York state unemployment rate continues to run about a full point better than Steuben County’s. The state rate was 4.4 percent in December. Does Steuben County have the potential to match the state’s jobless rate, or even better it?
"An unemployment rate matching that of New York state is not outside the realm of possibility,” Harris said. “Steuben County posted a rate below that of the state back in 2000. That was during a historic boom time at Corning Inc. that was, unfortunately, followed by a substantial economic downturn after the technology bubble burst worldwide.”