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Progress report

The big picture in Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s new report on employment trends in Upstate New York since the end of the Great Recession is a familiar one. The upstate region has lagged both downstate and the nation as a whole.

But Upstate New York is not a single economy. Rather, it’s a collection of smaller regions, some more vibrant than others.

For the Finger Lakes region, the good news is that, by several yardsticks, its economy has done as well or better than its upstate peers.

From June 2009 to June 2016, the Finger Lakes region—with a net gain of 9,500 jobs—had the second-best employment performance among the eight regions examined in the DiNapoli report. Only the Capital Region, which added 11,600 jobs, did better. And five of the eight regions had a net employment decline.

On a percentage basis, employment in the Finger Lakes increased by roughly 1.7 percent, compared with 0.3 percent across Upstate New York, 2.2 percent in the downstate region and 1.9 percent nationwide.

The comptroller also looked at the change in average annual wages from 2010 to 2015. The Finger Lakes led all eight regions in that benchmark, with growth of 13 percent.

What’s more, the largest number of new jobs in our region over the period (nearly 7,000) came in the industry category with the highest annual wage—the professional and business services sector, with average pay of $63,500. By contrast, the Capital Region’s largest gain came in the leisure and hospitality sector, with average annual pay of $19,800.

A positive sign for the entire upstate region: Its annual wage gain of 3.3 percent last year outpaced both the downstate and national averages.

For the Finger Lakes region, the report contained one worrisome figure. In the 12 months ended in June, its total employment was flat.

Is that one-year performance an aberration? The DiNapoli report does not attempt to answer such questions. That task is left to local officials and policy makers. Even so, the report’s findings represent an important first step.

9/2/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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