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Local unemployment rate falls

SARANAC LAKE — The unemployment rate in Essex and Franklin counties fell in September, but that doesn’t mean the job market is rapidly recovering, according to a local labor market analyst.

The unemployment rate in Essex County fell to 4.7% in September, down from 7.7% in August. In Franklin County, the unemployment rate fell to 5.1%, down from 8.8% in August.

Though the rate has declined, it’s still higher in both counties than it was last September, when Essex County had a 3.5% unemployment rate and Franklin County, 4.1%.

State Department of Labor Market Analyst Anthony Hayden, of Saranac Lake, said much of that decline between August and September this year can be attributed not to job growth but a decline in the number of people in the local workforce.

“The remarkable drop in the number unemployed and the unemployment rate from August to September is due to a decline in the size of the labor force rather than an increase in the employed,” he said. “For the month of September, Essex and Franklin County both saw the labor force shrink to a record low. As individuals leave the labor force, they are neither counted as employed nor unemployed, resulting in a lower labor force participation rate.”

State DOL data shows hundreds of people have left the workforce in Essex and Franklin counties, whether they retired, stopped actively looking for work or left the area altogether. There were roughly 16,400 workers in Essex County’s labor force in September, 600 fewer workers compared to September 2019. In Franklin County, there were about 19,500 people in the workforce as of September, down from 19,800 at the same time last year.

This decline has been felt among Tri-Lakes area employers, many of whom struggle to find workers, even more so with the loss of J-1 visa workers this year.

The statewide unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted to take into account the impact of holiday and summertime hiring, declined from 12.5% in August to 9.7% in September, according to the state DOL. The national civilian unemployment rate was 7.9% in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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