New unemployment numbers come out


Recorder News Staff

Unemployment numbers are out for November 2012, and rates for Montgomery and Fulton counties are trending with last year's numbers.

According to a news release from the State Labor Department released last week, Fulton County sits as one of the top five counties in the state with the highest unemployment rates.

With a 9.7 percent unemployment rate, the county falls about two percent above the average November unemployment rates for New York State (7.9 percent) and the country (7.4 percent).

Also included in the top five counties was Bronx County at 11.8 percent, Hamilton County at 10.5 percent, Orleans County at 10.1 percent, and Essex County at 9.8 percent.

Though it did not fall in to the top five counties with the highest rate, Montgomery County's rate of 9.3 percent came close.

Both county rates are down slightly from their October 2012 numbers.

Mark Barbano, the Mohawk Valley's regional economist for the New York State Department of Labor, said that for as long as he can remember the two counties have been high on the unemployment rate list.

"Normally, the rural counties are higher anyway," Barbano said. "A lot of the suburban counties are actually fairly low just because they have a lot more population, a lot more service-type jobs.

"Fulton/Montgomery counties you're not going to find all the different industries or places of employment that you might find in the Albany area."

Layoffs in manufacturing over the years and low tourism have contributed to those high unemployment rates, as well, Barbano added.

But with the high unemployment rates -- though they may be nothing new -- comes the push from many in the area to focus on job training to ready residents to be stand-out members of the future workforce.

Gail Breen, Executive Director of the Fulton-Montgomery-Schohaire Workforce Solutions Board, said the organization's "one-stop centers" help prepare those who are unemployed so that when the job market opens up again, they have a better chance of getting a job.

"What we're hoping is that through increasing their skills while unemployed, they'll have a better chance of being that person that's selected," Breen said.

Part of that training comes in the form of workshops, from resume building and interviewing to basic computer training.

The Workforce Solutions Board is also working with a number of residents on online training in areas like accounting, book-keeping, and computers.

"If they complete the course, they then get certificates saying, 'I took this online course,'" she said. "It's not a degree, but it is a certificate that says I'm knowledgeable in this area."

The push for job training in the STEM -- science, technology, engineering, and math -- careers is also on the front burner, as these types of positions are moving ever closer to the region.

Congressman Paul Tonko said that while looking at these high unemployment rates is "difficult to absorb," it is also a time to be hopeful.

"Training people for jobs that exist or will be existing in these given regions will be tremendously helpful as long as making a college career, a college path, is affordable and accessible."

Clean energy opportunities are beginning to take shape right outside of this area, Tonko said.

"These job opportunities are going to be immense. They also create a hub of activity. Suppliers to industries will locate here."

Over at Workforce Solutions, Breen and her team are focusing on STEM training as well.

"One of the partners that we work with found that people who get jobs in STEM careers earn on average $12,000 a year more than people who are not in a STEM career," she said. "STEM means careers in the local hospitals, careers in advance manufacturing, biotechnology, information technology, transportation, energy, and those are all local industries for us."

Labor market information workshops will begin in about a month or so at Workforce Solutions, with some focusing specifically on STEM.

"We can't always, in fact we can very rarely affect, who's hiring and what they're hiring for, but we can certainly affect getting people ready for this jobs," she said.

Tonko acknowledged that the region should leverage the high unemployment rate as an argument to obtain more resources for training in the future.

"We need to do this for the jobs," he said. "But it's also about doing it correctly."