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NY Jobs: Composite Outlook Is Good

Burt Lum

New Census estimates show the number of New Yorkers living in poverty remained steady from 2012 through last year, mirroring national statistics. The data comes at a time when the Empire State is gearing up to increase benefits for the unemployed and boost  employment opportunities for disabled workers.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday proclaimed median household income throughout New York State remained flat at about $57,000.

The national median income was about $52,000 last year. Among neighboring states, it was $52,000 in Pennsylvania and $53,000 in Vermont. It was $68,000 in Connecticut; $66,000 in Massachusetts; $70,000 in New Jersey.

The Census data shows 3 million people, or 16 percent of New York’s population, with income below the poverty level in 2013. Nationally, 48.8 million people, also about 16 percent, live in poverty. As a frame of reference, the Bureau notes that a family of four is considered to be living in poverty if it brings in less than $23,830 in a year. For an individual, the number is less than $11,890.

Career transition specialist Dan Moran with NextAct of Colonie says the key to increasing income lies in increasing jobs, and for the Capital Region this is a good time for job-seekers.      "We are hearing about employers saying they can't find applicants to fill their job needs. That's a concern. Overall job postings, while flat this past week in the region are still strong. And we're outpacing other parts the state, every single week.  So good market. People need to get out start looking around."

The NYS Department of Labor pegged New York's unemployment rate at 6.6 percent in July.   Labor Department Market Analyst John Nelson says new job numbers compiled over the last 12 months show private sector employment in the critical Hudson Valley Region increased by 0.8 percent.    "Employment gains were strongest in educational and health services, which was up 5600, followed by leisure and hospitality, up 2500. Professional and business services, up 900, 'other' services 700."

Meanwhile, on the downside, Nelson adds  "Job losses were largest in financial activities, down 1600. Followed by natural resources, mining and construction, down 1400, and manufacturing, down 1100. The government sector also shed 2900 jobs over the year."

Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the minimum weekly unemployment benefit rate will rise from $64 to $100 and the maximum weekly rate will increase from $405 to $420. The changes are effective October 6th.

Cuomo says the increases are the result of actions the state has taken to stabilize its unemployment insurance trust fund. The fund struggled for years and was forced to borrow federal money to pay unemployment claims.

Moran sees it more like Cuomo playing catch-up to neighboring states.    " You know it's a deep concern that our unemployment compensation offered to laid off workers is the lowest in the nation. One of the lowest in the nation, I should say.  In nearby Massachusetts it's up to 670 some odd dollars, New Hampshire 690 some odd dollars, so I think we've got a long way to come but this is a good sign.  It looks like the governor's responding to some pressures in that area, but we still need much more."

The Cuomo administration is also taking steps to boost the employment of disabled workers. An order signed by the governor creates the Employment First Commission, whose task is to create a state policy for support services that puts competitive, integrated employment first among options.

Administration officials say the employment rate for disabled adults in the state is 31 percent, compared with 72 percent for others. Dan Moran weighs in:  "It's really high time that our public officials step up to try to help them. It's not only just putting laws and regulations in place but rather giving them programs to help train them for the type of work that would give them good paying jobs. So I hope that in this plan that the governor's putting together, he's putting together plans to train. Also to encourage employers to patch incentives to hire."

Their poverty rate in New York's disabled community is nearly 29 percent, compared with 12 percent for New York adults without disabilities.    Cuomo has set a tentative goal of a 5 percent increase in the employment rate and 5 percent decrease in the poverty rate.

The commission includes officials from the governor's office and state agencies.

Recommendations to the governor are due March 1.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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