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RBJ 75: For the economy, what matters more than jobs?

Last year brought big changes to the RBJ 75. After reaching the quarter-century mark, we’d decided it was time to look at it with fresh eyes.

As a result, the RBJ 75 became an annual list of the region’s largest private-sector employers, pure and simple. Though it seemed hard to believe, no one had done this before.

This year, the publication’s 27th, brings no dramatic changes. Once again, the primary focus is on jobs—after all, when it comes to the health of a region’s economy, employment is what matters most.

And when it comes to this local economy in particular, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the non-profit sector. A year ago, non-profits not only represented the largest number of RBJ 75 companies—a total of 28, compared with 27 publicly traded firms and 20 private companies—they also accounted for the lion’s share of jobs.

This year, non-profits among the RBJ 75 have declined in number by three—yet their share of the total jobs has increased. All told, non-profits employ 70,057 people, or 51 percent, of the 138,629 workers on RBJ 75 payrolls. The 25 non-profits added 1,554 jobs in the last 12 months.

The 27 public companies on the list employ 34,306 people, or 25 percent. That’s 229 fewer jobs than they had a year ago. The 23 private companies (versus 20 in 2014) employ nearly as many as the public firms: 34,266. Because of incomplete year-ago data for this year’s RBJ 75, it’s not possible to say for sure whether these 23 firms together added jobs (though with numbers for all but one, a direct comparison shows an increase of 1,228).

The top three job gainers on the 2015 RBJ 75 are Rochester Regional Health (1,554), the University of Rochester (900) and Angels in Your Home (312), which a year ago did not have enough local employees to make the list. Rounding out the top five are Tops Markets LLC (275) and Wegmans Food Markets Inc. (257).

The three employers with the largest year-over-year declines are the YMCA of Greater Rochester (-416), Eastman Kodak Co. (-300) and CooperVision Inc. (-160).

Overall, 41 of the RBJ 75 employers added jobs, 23 reduced their payrolls and 10 were unchanged; as noted above, one is N.A.

The overall No. 1 on the 2015 list is no surprise: UR. The 900 jobs it added grew UR’s employment to 26,673. Second-ranked Rochester Regional Health added jobs at an even faster clip; its gain of 1,554 brought it to 15,540. Wegmans retains bragging rights as the top private-company employer, with a regional staff of 13,839, and Xerox Corp. repeats as the leading public-company employer, with 6,575 workers locally. (Harris Corp.’s acquisition of Exelis Inc. closed after the RBJ 75 research deadline, but it looks likely to jump into the top eight next year.)

Over the last 27 years, we’ve learned a few things about compiling the information needed to produce an annual publication like this. Nonetheless, the task remains challenging. As always, this year’s list is based primarily on responses to RBJ surveys, but we’ll use any credible source (some companies resist providing even basic employment numbers).

If you spot what appears to be an error, don’t hesitate to contact me by phone at (585) 546-8303 or by email at rbj@rbj.net. And as always, we’re eager to get feedback and ideas for the next RBJ 75.

—Paul Ericson, editor

6/12/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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