The Rochester area’s economic recovery remained on track in July, as it outperformed the statewide averages for unemployment and job growth.
The metro jobless rate last month was 5.4 percent, compared with 11.7 percent in July 2020, the latest monthly report from the state Labor Department shows. In June, the rate was 5.3 percent, compared with 11.2 percent a year earlier.
Monroe County’s unemployment rate in July was 5.7 percent, down from 12.5 percent the year before. The June rate was 5.6 percent compared with 11.9 percent a year earlier.
Statewide, the July unemployment rate was 7.4 percent versus 14.8 percent a year ago; the nationwide rate was 5.7 percent, down from 10.5 percent in July 2020.
The Labor Department calculates local area unemployment rates in part using the results of the Current Population Survey, which contacts approximately 3,100 households in New York each month. The data are preliminary and are not seasonally adjusted.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, in April 2020, the jobless rate in Monroe County and the region peaked at 15 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively.
Since COVID first struck, Monroe County has consistently had the highest unemployment rate among the six counties in the Rochester region. In July, however, Orleans County’s rate was a tenth of a percent higher, at 5.8 percent. The rates elsewhere in the region were Livingston County, 4.6 percent; Ontario County, 4.5 percent; Wayne County, 4.8 percent; and Yates County, 4.1 percent.
The Rochester area’s July jobless rate compares favorably to those for New York City (10.2 percent), Buffalo-Niagara Falls (5.8 percent) and Syracuse (5.5 percent). The rate in the Albany region was 4.8 percent.
As with the jobless data, employment numbers have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, but they are strikingly better than a year ago.
In the Labor Department’s release on nonfarm jobs in July (also not seasonally adjusted) compared with a year earlier, the Rochester metro region posted a gain of 40,900 jobs, or 8.7 percent, totaling 509,100 versus 468,200 in July 2020. By comparison, in June the region had 36,900 more jobs than a year earlier, a 7.8 percent increase.
Statewide, nonfarm employment rose 7.1 percent, down from an 8.3 percent year-over-year increase in June.
The Rochester area also added private-sector jobs at a faster pace than New York as a whole. They increased in July by 34,500 or 8.5 percent, compared with a 7 percent gain statewide. In June, the region added 34,400 private-sector jobs, or 8.6 percent.
Looking ahead, the big question is whether the local economy can maintain its upward trajectory. The rapid spread of the Delta variant, which has driven up infection and hospitalization rates, is the chief concern. At the same time, supply bottlenecks and labor shortages in some industries stand in the way of a full recovery. And the impact of the looming end of key pandemic relief measures such as extended unemployment insurance benefits is unknown.
Still, the economy’s recovery over the last year has been dramatic—and one that few predicted.
Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor.