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Snap Poll: Most optimistic about local economy

The majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll are optimistic about the local economy over the next three years.

The latest job figures, released last week, showed private-sector job growth in metropolitan Rochester topped 2 percent for the third straight month. This follows a private-sector job count in July of 455,400 that was the highest in a decade and a half.

And on Tuesday, the state Department of Labor reported that Rochester’s unemployment rate last month dropped to its lowest level in nearly eight years.

The jobless rate in the Rochester metro area was 4.8 percent in August, down from 5.6 percent a year ago, not seasonally adjusted. The last time the area’s unemployment rate dipped below 5 percent was November 2007.

The area’s gain of 10,100 private-sector jobs in August, or 2.3 percent, matched the national figure and outpaced the 2.1 percent growth statewide.

Forty-two percent of respondents say they are somewhat optimistic about the prospects for the Rochester-area economy over the next three years, and 11 percent say they’re very optimistic. Twenty-three percent say they are neutral, and a quarter says they are somewhat or very pessimistic.

Recent job growth in the Rochester area has been broad-based, led by service-sector categories such as education, health care and professional and business services. However, manufacturing employment has fallen, running counter to recent national and statewide trends.

Using a longer-term benchmark, the Rochester area continues to lag most of the 100 largest metropolitan regions in overall economic performance since the recession, according to the Brookings Institution’s latest Metro Monitor readings. From its trough in the fourth quarter of 2009 through the first quarter of 2015, the Rochester region ranked 96th—unchanged from the previous quarter.

The plurality of respondents to this week’s poll—45 percent—say their own firms’ Rochester-area employment is likely to be flat over the next three years. But 38 percent expect an increase, while 17 percent predict a decrease. These are very similar results to those from 2012, when a similar question was asked.

Roughly 425 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Sept. 21 and 22.

How do you personally feel about the prospects for the Rochester-area economy over the next three years?
Very optimistic: 11%
Somewhat optimistic: 42%
Neutral: 23%
Somewhat pessimistic: 20%
Very pessimistic: 5%

How would you describe your own company’s outlook over the next three years? Would you say that your firm’s Rochester-area employment is likely to:
Increase: 38%
Neither increase nor decrease: 45%
Decrease: 17%

COMMENTS:
Certain sectors have been strong in Rochester for years and continue to gain momentum. Count me among those grateful to do business here.
—Mike Bergin, president, Chariot Learning

We have to cease giving tax incentives to projects that are primarily designed to bring new retailers into the area. It does not create new business in most cases, just spreads the market out to more participants. What about the retailers who are already here and have suffered through the many obstacles without the benefit of tax breaks? It’s bad enough to see our competitors getting breaks not available to us, but we have to pay to finance those breaks.
—Jim Cronin, Classic Fashion Resources

Until you see the poverty numbers decline, one cannot say the economy here has really improved. Rochester does remain a difficult city to start a career or gain entry-level experience. The city is doing a good job of tackling middle skill jobs and preparing for them. City officials need to ensure city residents have access to capital to improve their homes and start businesses.
—Keith Newcomer

Rhetoric aside, the recent “job creation” does not indicate any measurable benefit to the Rochester community, thus far or into the foreseeable future. Ronald Reagan would ask the question: “Are you better off now than previously?” Therein lies the true response!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

Rochester is the 12th poorest city in the United States. Rochester’s poverty rate is 35.4 percent. New York ranks as the worst state in America for taxpayers. The average burden for state and local taxes is $9,718, which is 39 percent higher than the national average. New York State is in a death spiral. The problem when you get older is you sell your home in New York for very little because people have to factor in the monthly cost of the taxes. Then you go to another state with lower taxes but the property values are much higher so you cannot buy as nice a home as the one you sold. No wonder young people bail out of New York while they can! I know, raise the minimum wage to get people to work and off welfare, but who pays the wages? The middle class. Will this increase or decrease the number of jobs? Companies have to remain profitable so they will try to hold overhead down. Face it, New York, you’re in big trouble! Got to go, the moving company is here.
—Mark Williams

I see new apartments and condos going up all over town, yet home-selling prices remain essentially flat. Almost no new homes are being built. Are baby boomers retiring into apartments, leaving a glut of unsold houses? Or can’t people save up a down payment to buy a home, so they rent? Either scenario is discouraging. Most businesspeople I speak with are just treading water. The ones who are busy say it’s because their competitors closed or left the area, and fewer companies are left to handle what business there is. I hope Rochester’s best days are not behind us, but I do wonder.
—George Thomas, Ogden

While optimistic, I don’t think we can say our economy has “turned the corner” until we have begun to reduce the poverty that plagues our community.
—Les Kernan

For more comments, go to rbjdaily.com.  To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll, sign up for the Daily Report at staging.rbj.net/dailyreport.

9/25/15 (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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