Unemployment rates in the region shrink

PLATTSBURGH — The unemployment rate in the North Country has dropped this year.

The New York State Labor Department released its preliminary numbers for September 2018, and a look back at last year’s figures shows rates in Clinton County have decreased from 4.8 to 3.6 percent.

The county wasn’t alone in lowered unemployment this year.

“Rates in all 62 counties (are) lower than they were in September 2017,” a Labor Department press release said.

Development Corporation President and CEO Paul Grasso related the drops to the current economy of the United States.

“When you look at the U.S. economy compared to other international economies — Germany, England, France, China — our economy is just chugging along,” he said.

“Some of that is related to, I think, two things: the tax cut that Congress did and the fact that NAFTA has been resolved, to some degree.

“Some of the uncertainty is gone.”

The Labor Department uses the Current Population Survey when calculating the unemployment rate, which contacts about 3,100 households in New York state monthly, the release said.

A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey in New York showed the number of private-sector jobs jumped 109,500 this year, bringing the total to 8,189,800 statewide.

“Amazing”

Essex and Franklin counties saw their own drops in unemployment this year.

Essex County sits at 3.6 percent, down 0.9 percent from last year, while Franklin County decreased 1.6 percent, with its September unemployment rate at 3.9 percent.

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas welcomes the news.

“We haven’t seen numbers like these in our area in many years,” he said.

“With full unemployment often defined as 4 percent, that’s an amazing advance for North Country workers and families.”

High demand

ETS CEO Deb Cleary said the staffing agency saw an uptick in job placements during the past year.

“I would be willing to go out on a limb to say all local manufacturers, as well as retail service — they’re all hiring at this point and competing for talent,” she said.

“In Clinton County, we have a robust manufacturing sector, and as they are growing and the economy is stronger, these products are in more demand. And they need to make more product, so they need more people to do that.

“It’s kind just a cascading effect.”

Grasso said many of the Development Corporation tenants supply product to big manufacturers like Nova Bus and Bombardier.

These companies are doing well and are ramping up their number of employees, he said.

Workforce woes

“What we’ve noticed in the past year is every one of our tenants is having trouble finding qualified workers and, they will tell you, reliable workers — people who show up five days a week,” he said.

“That’s the biggest problem.”

Ridgefield One Staffing has begun busing employees from Franklin County to Clinton County to bring in qualified workers.

Grasso said it’s a smart move.

“The economy in Franklin County is not as strong as it is in Clinton County,” he said. “They have the workforce, and we have the jobs.

“One of the things we hope will happen is that workers come here and then relocate here.”

Training

Down the line, Grasso hoped, more area schools will introduce students to local manufacturing job opportunities.

The CEO applauded Beekmantown Middle School and Superintendent Dan Mannix’s work with the Project-Based Learning program.

“Dan Mannix will tell you that 20 to 25 percent of his kids will go to college and are on that path, but the other 75 to 80 percent don’t have an idea of what they want to do,” Grasso said.

“He’s trying to introduce them to some of the better manufacturing jobs.”

Grasso believes this early intervention will be more effective in preparing young adults for the workforce.

Cleary said employers are also willing to invest in their employees.

“What I am seeing is that more companies are willing to do some training on their own,” she said.

“Several of our clients are doing training up at IAM (Clinton Community College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing).

“I think companies are investing more in their employees as they compete for talent.”

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