Another month of solid recovery

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The spread of the Delta coronavirus variant did not halt the Rochester area’s economic recovery in August. As in July, it outperformed the statewide averages for unemployment and job growth. 

The metro jobless rate in August was 5.2 percent, compared with 9 percent in August 2020, the latest monthly report from the state Labor Department shows. In July, the rate was 5.4 percent, compared with 11.7 percent in July 2020.

Monroe County’s unemployment rate in August fell to 5.5 percent, down from 5.7 percent in July and 9.7 percent in August 2020.

The August unemployment rate statewide was 7.1 percent versus 7.4 percent in July and 11.6 percent in August 2020; the nationwide rate was 5.3 percent, down from 5.7 percent in July and 8.5 percent in August a year ago.

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.

The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in April 2020 caused the jobless rate in Monroe County and the region to spike to 15 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively. In the months since then, the rate has traced a roller-coaster ride but at a much lower level.

Among the six counties in the Rochester region, Monroe County has generally had the highest unemployment rate. In July and August, however, Orleans County’s rate was a tenth of a percent higher; last month it was 5.6 percent. The rates elsewhere in the region were Livingston County, 4.4 percent; Ontario County, 4.4 percent; Wayne County, 4.6 percent; and Yates County, 3.9 percent.

The Rochester area’s August jobless rate once again compared favorably to those for New York City (9.8 percent), Buffalo-Niagara Falls (5.7 percent) and Syracuse (5.4 percent), while the rate in the Albany region was 4.7 percent.

Employment numbers, like the jobless data, continue to show marked improvement from a year ago.

The Labor Department’s release on nonfarm jobs in August (also not seasonally adjusted), compared with a year earlier, showed the Rochester metro region with a gain of 33,100, or 7 percent, totaling 508,400 versus 475,300. While sizable, August’s gain lagged the jobs added in July and June: 40,900 (8.7 percent) and 36,900 (7.8 percent), respectively.

Statewide, nonfarm employment rose 5 percent, compared with a 7.1 percent increase in July and 8.3 percent gain in June. 

The Rochester area increase in private-sector jobs last month also outpaced New York as a whole—6.7 percent versus 5.4 percent. But as with nonfarm employment, the rate of increase slowed compared with July (8.5 percent) and June (8.6 percent).

The resilience of the local economic recovery is reason for optimism going forward, but COVID-19 remains a dark cloud. Monroe County reported 1,222 cases and 19 deaths in the week ended Sept. 20. In the two prior weeks combined, there were 3,781 new cases and 19 deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, Monroe County has reported 75,491 cases and 1,398 deaths.

Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor.

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