Unemployment rate 6% in Steuben, Allegany County at 5%

Steuben County recorded its lowest September unemployment rate in seven years last month, but the 6 percent figure still landed the county fifth from the bottom among New York state's 62 counties.

September jobless numbers were released Tuesday by the New York State Department of Labor. Steuben County continues to trail New York state and the nation in terms of joblessness. Last week the labor department reported that the state jobless percentage was 4.8 percent in September while the national rate was 4.9 percent.

Allegany County saw unemployment fall slightly in September, dropping from 5.2 percent in August to 5 percent last month. The jobless rate was 5.3 percent 12 months ago. Allegany County traditionally sees an uptick in employment in late August and early September as the three colleges resume full-time classes.

Allegany's 5 percent rate is good enough for 33rd in the state, right near the middle of the pack among New York's 62 counties.

Livingston County's unemployment rate improved over the last 12 months, falling from 5.1 in September of 2014 to 4.6 percent last month. That was the fifteenth best in the state.

After the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level of the year in August at 5.7 percent, Steuben County saw its jobless rate tick up in September. The reason: the resident civilian labor force increased by 100, climbing to 43,900 in September, while the number of people employed was unchanged from August, 41,300.

There is some improvement over 12 months. Unemployment was at 6.2 percent in Steuben County last September.

Overall, the Southern Tier Region had a 5.3 percent unemployment rate in September, according to the Labor Department, with 283,400 residents employed and nearly 16,000 people counted as unemployed. The rate a year ago was 5.6 percent.

In recent weeks, government and business leaders have been expressing some renewed optimism about the local economy. The major reason is the potential $2.5-$3 billion contract between Alstom and Amtrak that would see the Hornell facility build new train sets for high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor. Officials say the contract would bring 400 new jobs to Hornell, and an additional 350 ancillary jobs to the region.

Those kinds of hirings would certainly "move the needle" on the local unemployment rate, a state labor official agreed on Tuesday.

"As long as Corning Inc remains solid and with the ramp up in hiring between Sitel and Alstom, I think we’ll see a much improved relative unemployment rate ranking," said Christian Harris, a Southern Tier labor market analyst. "Alstom’s hiring will most definitely improve our job counts and the unemployment rate should improve as well, all other things being held steady."

Harris cautioned that because some workers will be transitioning from within the workforce to higher-paying positions in manufacturing, the unemployment rate may not improve immediately.

"The employed resident count may not improve as quickly as the manufacturing job count," he said.