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Opportunity for all

Let’s be honest, the latest job numbers for the Rochester area are discouraging. Private-sector employment growth here has slowed, and in October, the year-over-year comparison showed a slight decline, while the U.S. figure was a 2.3 percent increase.
 
It is risky, however, to read too much into statistics from one month-or even one quarter. After all, the Rochester area did as well or better than the national average in job growth through the recession and much of the early recovery.
 
While recent trends may not be entirely clear, this much is: the importance of job creation and retention. Just ask the recipients of the Rochester Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 award.
 
As part of the recent 20th anniversary of this program, RBJ surveyed the recipients of this honor from the last two decades. As when a similar survey was conducted at the 10-year mark, a significant portion-40 percent-said they were not Rochester-area natives. What brought them here? "A job," said half of them. No other single factor was even close.
 
When asked to identify the significant factors that keep them here, "family" was cited by 76 percent, but "job" was not far behind at 67 percent.
 
These results stand in contrast to the oft-cited concern about an outmigration of young people from the Rochester area. And that trend-which was starkly evident a decade ago-appears to have taken a positive turn: According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the percentage of the Rochester metropolitan population aged 25 to 34 actually rose from 2010 to 2012 and the 25-44 age group was unchanged.
 
The growth of young firms is helping to offset the job losses from downsizing at Rochester’s traditional employment leaders. So, too, is the growth at the area’s education leaders: University of Rochester, now the area’s top employer, and Rochester Institute of Technology.
 
The Forty Under 40 honorees generally are upbeat about the employment picture for young professionals here. They are more concerned about rising poverty and dismal graduation rates in the city of Rochester.

In the years to come, that could be Rochester’s No. 1 challenge: ensuring that economic opportunity is available to all young people in this region. 

11/28/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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