April 4, 2012
Unemployment rate dips lower
Seasonal job gains drop rate to 10.1 percent in February
Cortland County’s unemployment rate fell for the first time in four months in February.
The county unemployment rate slid to 10.1 percent, down from 10.5 percent in January, according to the state Labor Department.
That rate is higher than last year. February 2011’s unemployment rate was 9.6 percent.
This dip was expected, due to the seasonal changes in the unemployment data. Many local industries layoff seasonal workers and as spring approaches, those jobs come back.
Cortland gained 300 total jobs in February as the number of employed workers rose from 21,400 to 22,100. The number of unemployed workers in February was slightly higher than February 2011, 2,500 compared to 2,400.
The county saw its largest gains in the leisure and hospitality industries, adding 300 jobs from February 2011, said Syracuse-based labor analyst Karen Knapik-Scalzo. The largest job losses came in government as well as business and professional services, which each lost around 200 jobs.
“The private sector is still showing the most job growth,” she said.
February’s data was not released until Tuesday because the state does benchmarking at the beginning of every year. That process pushes back the publication of data for the first few months of the year, Knapik-Scalzo said.
The improving state economy combined with new regulations from Congress means unemployment insurance will not last as long either.
Under the current state and federal regulations, unemployed workers can receive up to 93 weeks of unemployment benefits through regular unemployment insurance, federal emergency unemployment compensation and extended benefits.
As a state’s economy improves though, it does not qualify for the same amount benefits, Knapik-Scalzo said.
“They measure it through three-month benchmarks,” she said. “Once the unemployment rate dips below 8 percent in the state, you’re no longer eligible for some benefits.”
The state Department of Labor is projecting that by September the maximum amount of unemployment will fall to 63 weeks.
By December, all of the extra unemployment benefits programs will be exhausted and workers will only receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.
New Yorkers receiving unemployment insurance made up 55 percent of the total unemployed in February.
For most of New York state, the employment situation is slightly better than in Cortland.
New York has recovered 95 percent of the private sector jobs it lost during the 2008 recession, according to Labor Department.
In February alone, almost 10 percent of all new jobs created in the United States were created in New York state.
Despite that news, the nonseasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate over the last year went up from 8.6 percent in February 2011 to slightly over 9.2 percent in February 2012.
Nonseasonally adjusted numbers provide a more valid year-to-year comparison.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 8.3 percent in January to 8.5 percent in February.
The Ithaca area once again had the lowest unemployment rate in New York at 6.5 percent. That number has been rising, however, and Ithaca also has the highest rate of job losses in the state over the past year at 6.1 percent.
The national unemployment rate fell slightly, dropping from 8.8 percent in January to 8.7 percent in February. That number is an improvement over a year ago, when the unemployment rate was 9.5 percent nationally.
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