When it comes to describing the local economy, you could say data don’t tell the whole story. In fact, the problem is numbers tell many stories about how the Rochester region is faring.
Last month, the data for August showed an improvement in the unemployment rate but a decline in the number of nonfarm and private-sector jobs.
Another measure is the change in metropolitan gross domestic product. The latest numbers, for 2015, show that goods and services produced in the Rochester area totaled $55.4 billion, or roughly the midpoint among the top 100 U.S. metro areas. But adjusted for inflation, the gain in local output was about half the U.S. average.
Then there was a recent report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli that found from June 2009 to June 2016, the Finger Lakes region had the second-best employment performance among the eight regions examined—a net gain of 9,500 jobs.
With such numbers, sizing up the Rochester economy is a difficult task. Even harder, though, is predicting its future course. At best it will muddle along, burdened by the weight of New York’s onerous taxes and regulations.
But that view is not shared by everyone. In particular, the leaders of the area’s fastest-growing private firms have a much more positive outlook. In a survey of executives at the 2016 Rochester Chamber Top 100 companies, conducted for the special supplement that appears with this week’s paper, 80 percent said they were optimistic about the prospects for the Rochester-area economy over the next three years—and more than one-third were very optimistic.
“Rochester has proven to be resilient and dynamic,” said John Ford Nichols of the Nichols Team Inc.
And David Beinetti of SWBR Architecture, Engineering and Landscape Architecture P.C. wrote: “I believe that the next five years will be some of the best we have seen in two decades for our local economy and region.”
These views do not spring from one or even several months’ numbers. Rather, they are based on first-hand experience showing how growth here can be achieved.
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