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Poll: Jobs picture has not improved here

A plurality of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say the Rochester-area jobs picture is unchanged from a year ago. Twenty-eight percent of readers say it is better, while 24 percent say it is worse.

The U.S. Labor Department last week said 33 states—including New York—posted increases in non-farm payroll employment last month, versus 23 in February. While unemployment remained unchanged at 9.7 percent nationally, payrolls had the biggest gain in three years.

Half of the Snap Poll respondents predict that through the rest of 2010, Rochester-area employment of their firms will remain flat. One-quarter expect an increase, while the other quarter predict a decrease.

These results are slightly more pessimistic than in December, when the same question was asked. In that poll, 47 percent said their firms’ Rochester-area hiring would neither increase nor decrease. Thirty-four percent predicted an increase, while 19 percent expected a decrease.

Half of this poll’s respondents said they have experienced a salary freeze in the last year. One-third saw a benefit reduction, while 14 percent were laid off. Seven percent were furloughed. Last July, some 45 percent reported that their salaries had been frozen in the previous 12 months.

Benefit reductions had affected 29 percent, layoffs 11 percent and furloughs 9 percent.
More than 400 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted April 19 and 20.

In your view, is the Rochester-area jobs picture better or worse now than a year ago?
Better: 28%
Worse: 24%
Unchanged: 48%

How would you describe your own company’s outlook through the rest of 2010? Would you say that your firm’s Rochester-area employment is likely to:
Increase: 25%
Decrease: 25% 
Neither increase nor decrease: 50% 
 
Over the previous 12 months, which of the following have you personally experienced?
Salary freeze: 50% 
Benefit reduction: 33% 
Layoff: 14% 
Furlough: 7% 
Unemployment (entire 12 months): 5% 
Retired/not employed by choice: 2% 
None of the above: 29% 

Here are some readers’ comments:

I am the general manager for a staffing and recruitment firm, and we have seen the job market have ups and downs in years past, as we have in the past year. Our clients are beginning to hire slowly in all areas from entry- and mid-level industrial and manufacturing to administrative, IT, accounting and a few middle-management positions. The selection process remains diligent and can take some time; however, finding the right fit is key when adding new staff or replacing staff that you were forced to downsize a year ago. For our internal team we had to run lean this past year. However, we were able to scoop up incredible talent because of other organizations downsizing. Companies: Look for opportunities to advance and be ahead of the competition when it comes to talent acquisition. Passive candidates are hesitant to leave their current positions so know what you and your company have to offer and celebrate it! Potential employees: Stay positive, continue to network and research those companies you are targeting, brush up on skills that are seen as marketable and volunteer. Don’t be afraid to take a job that is below your pay grade if there is advancement opportunities you will earn you place soon enough!
—Danielle Powers, the Employment Store

You must be kidding. As they say, it’s all in how you count. I don’t see unemployment going down in Rochester or New York. What I do see is more people leaving the state to find work or stopping looking for work. There are more and more people coming out of the job market and retiring, going to lesser jobs (including service positions) or moving away. You will see the job market improve here when we go back to manufacturing, lower taxes for everyone in the state, change our governing personnel (we are currently still dysfunctional), get upper management salaries in line, decrease health care costs for everyone, and start supporting upstate in a more realistic way as opposed to New York City. It’s a tall order, and it won’t happen quickly. Worse yet, you cannot count on the old stalwarts like Eastman Kodak to lead the improvement. They would just as well send everything offshore or to a Third World country. So if the new jobs are to come from the second- or third-tier companies then the salaries will be lower and the standard of living will be lower. Combine this with the ridiculous tax structure and you can see there is not much likelihood for improvement. Rochester’s future is very uncertain and we need to find a way to revitalize it.
—Bob Stein

It is extremely difficult to analyze the employment situation, with so many conflicting reports. One thing is sure: Unless Obama makes jobs the No. 1 criterion and we find a way to bring back manufacturing, the outlook is very bleak!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

Recently two friends who are teachers were told that their jobs are over at the end of this semester, so I find it hard to believe the job situation is getting better. If there is change in the expansion of jobs, it’s only temporary. Unless we can balance the budget both locally and nationally, we will be seeing an up-and-down trend in employment. Cuts to education should be the last thing we do, but maybe we should look within the education system to cut the long trips for sports and band competitions and have students do fundraisers. If they want to do the extras, they need to work for it. Teach the kids responsibility as well as the three Rs. We need to do this the right and smart way, or we all will pay the price. Maybe we should cut some of the salaries and benefits of the Legislature and Congress people—you know, the ones who just vote themselves raises because they are doing such a great job.
—David DeMallie

I feel that the employment picture in the Rochester area remains stagnant. Large corporations have spent considerable sums to increase efficiency and lower head count. Many of those jobs, unfortunately, will never come back. Small and medium businesses are the key. For the most part, they have held off hiring or returning workers because of uncertainty and outright fear. Once these companies feel secure in the economic recovery, then things will turn around. Until then, status quo.
—John Halewski, president, CSNY Inc.

It’s rather like a 350-pound obese person losing 15 pounds. Yes, weight has been lost, but there is a long way to go.
—Janet Nelson, the WorkOut Consortium, Webster

At Rochester Professional Consultants Network, we still have people coming in who were recently laid off or have been laid off for a long time. RPCN is a training ground for those who come out of employment and who are attending in an attempt to become independent consultants or business owners. Some unemployment statistics for the area may appear to be acceptable. These are deceiving, since a lot of people have left the area. With the demise of local large employers, employment here will not significantly recover. Small businesses blossom only if there are solid, big companies willing to use them. Young professionals and non-professionals are also attracted by employers that offer solid employment on which to build a family. Brain drain will continue to deplete the area, and at present there is no hope that employment (the number of employed people, not fictitious percentage numbers) will increase significantly. The highly touted small businesses cannot make up for the losses of employment opportunities because of their innate instability.
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting

What I hear from friends and relatives is not very good. What I read in the RBJ and the D&C is somewhat better. I’m always amazed with the tax structure of New York State that anyone does much if anything to grow a business. The workers have to do so much to support the non-workers and the over-abundant public employees. How can I get one of those pensions for life that balloon because of overtime in the last three working years? When will New York State go over to the same pension system that we have in private industry? Why is New York State employee retirement exempt from state income tax?
—Clifford Jacobson, WebHomeUSA.com

This country and state have the perfect time to overhaul the tax system to make it employer and business friendly. But as usual not a one of these buffoons has a clue how to, or the balls to make any serious changes. November can’t come soon enough.
—Jim Duke

As someone who has been very actively job-seeking for certainly the past six months, the Rochester job market remains very challenged and challenging. In fact, I’m increasingly seeing a "race to the bottom," where companies are offering lower and lower salaries/wages, and job-seekers (out of sheer desperation) are competing with each other to see who will accept the lower salary in order to get the job. Additionally, more and more positions are contract engagements rather than permanent hires, further continuing the longstanding uncertainty for professionals in the area.
—Christopher Burns

(c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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