Jobs in New York grow to highest level since Great Recession

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state had more people working last year than at any time since the Great Recession, according to a new report on employment published Monday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. However, upstate regions continue to struggle.

The figures, first reported by The Associated Press, show that more than 9.12 million New Yorkers worked a job in 2016, the highest number since 2008, when there were 9.14 million people employed in the state. The statewide unemployment rate last year was 4.8 percent, the lowest in nine years.

But while joblessness was down in all of the state's 10 labor markets, upstate regions including the Southern Tier, the North Country and western New York faced job losses in recent years as workers either moved out of the area or dropped out of the labor market. The Southern Tier, along the Pennsylvania border, saw the biggest drop of more than 8 percent.

"Statewide, employment is growing and unemployment shrinking," said DiNapoli, a Democrat. "But ensuring good job opportunities for all New Yorkers remains a challenge."

The problems seen in the upstate job numbers follow decades of population decline, manufacturing losses and economic stagnation, a trend that Gov. Andrew Como has aimed to reverse through investments in infrastructure, support for key industries and lower taxes.

"Some businesses start to leave and then some people start to leave and then some more businesses start to leave, and then it gets worse and it gets worse... that was the story of upstate New York," Cuomo, a Democrat, said last month during an appearance in the Southern Tier. "We had to shift the focus from downstate New York to upstate New York."

Other findings from the report:

  • Long Island had the state's highest labor participation rate — nearly 64 percent — followed by the Albany area and the Hudson River Valley.
  • Almost 24 percent of the state's workers are members of a labor union, more than twice the national rate. DiNapoli says it's the highest union membership rate in the nation.
  • More than 40 percent of those holding a job in the state have a bachelor's degree, compared to just under 35 percent nationally.