Unemployment Rate in Hudson Valley Doesn’t Add Up

Kevin Halcott was hired as a dishwasher and busboy at the Main St. Bistro in New Paltz, N.Y. after dealing with a struggle many Americans know all too well: unemployment.

The 26 year-old of Ulster County resident was unemployed from August of 2013 to February of 2014.

“I did a lot of job hunting,” he said, “It was easy to find restaurant work in New Paltz, but there was no work in other sectors and my field of interest.”

Halcott did not claim unemployment benefits while not working. However,  he was still counted as one of the unemployed by the latest jobs report for New York State.

The U.S. Department of Labor measures unemployment from a survey of households and only counts those who unsuccessfully sought work in the data. Those who have stopped receiving benefits or who do not try to find work, including seasonally, are not counted as part of the unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate for the Hudson Valley decreased from 7.4 percent in Dec. 2012 to 5.5 percent in Dec. 2013. This change represents the lowest level in unemployment since 2008.

The unemployment rate in the Hudson Valley region is the second lowest of the 10 Labor Market Regions in New York State, behind only Long Island.

On the surface, the report’s findings seem to speak positively about our local economy. However, there are different ways to view the employment picture in New York State. A different way to view the situation is by looking at increases in employment, as opposed to decreases in unemployment.

New Paltz Businesses

The Hudson Valley saw an increase of only 0.1 percent in private sector employment between Dec. 2012 and Dec. 2013, with downstate counties, such as Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester creating more jobs, according to the NYS Department of Labor.

Almira Overbay, who hired Halcott and has been the manager of Main St. Bistro for the past 14 years, explained her indifference with the official measure of unemployment.

“I have a lot of friends who are unemployed,” she said “They worked in construction, but with the bad weather, there isn’t much work. Some are just too picky and give up.”

These people would not be counted in the official unemployment rate.

According to the Marist Bureau of Economic Research, the labor force in New York State increased 0.69 percent and employment increased 1.79 percent over the past year. In the Hudson Valley, employment is growing, but is not keeping up with the labor force.

Phillip Carmosino of Dutchess County was laid off from his job as a maintenance mechanic for N.Y. Medical College in 2012, at a time when the US’s labor market began to slowly improve.

Carmosino began his search for work immediately in order to financially support his family. Soon after, the pressures of unemployment began to weigh upon him, “especially when you don’t hear back from employers.”

Despite slight gains in the employment market, Hudson Valley residents remain cynical about job prospects.

Halcott explained if he did not receive a job five days ago he would “rather stay unemployed and find the right fit… wait for something better.”

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