There is a widening income gap in the Hudson Valley despite growth in wages and employment. That’s according to a report released Monday by the Marist Bureau of Economic Research.
The annual report looks at wage and job growth by sector. “Special Report: Employment in the Hudson Valley 2017” shows that wage and salary income inequality is highly significant with three of the region’s counties — Westchester, Rockland and Putnam — ranking in the top 10 of the most unequal counties statewide. Dr. Christy Huebner Caridi, Director of the Marist Bureau of Economic Research, authored the study.
“Unemployment rates have been dropping across the region but, again, the jobs that are being created are paying below average wage jobs, and very few are being created in above-average wage jobs,” Caridi says.
She says it’s a pattern that has stayed relatively the same since the Great Recession a decade ago. The report also shows that the most significant change in the distribution of wages by sector occurred in Dutchess County, with the level of below average wage jobs falling from 66 percent in 2008 to 52 percent 2017.
“And they’re basically attributable to the health care sector, the health care and social services sector,” says Caridi. “In 2008, the average wages were below average and, as of 2017, they’d moved up to above average jobs. They made this massive change in the statistics in Dutchess County.”
Health Quest is one of the largest employers in the region and, notes Caridi, is set to add to its ranks. In September came the announcement that Marist College and Health Quest are partnering to create a medical school at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie. The school would create about 100 full-time positions and numerous part-time opportunities, with the first class slated to fill seats in 2022. Caridi says more developments like this are needed for the region to narrow the income gap.
“In Dutchess County, health care is certainly running neck and neck with our tech presence, manufacturing, because basically it falls into manufacturing,” Caridi says. “And manufacturing continues to contract, slightly, but contract.”
Yet the tech presence continues on an upswing.
“But there are new tech companies opening up in this region, pardon me in Dutchess, in particular. Now, whether it’s going to be a one-off, there’s going to be two or three employees per company, has yet to be seen,” says Caridi. “But there is an increasing presence of tech companies across, at least, Dutchess County.”
Putnam, Orange and Ulster counties all reported more than 50 percent above-average wage jobs. Meantime, Caridi says the wage gap is most pronounced in the New York City suburban counties of Rockland and Westchester.
“In both cases, they have the largest percentage change of below average jobs at 70 [percent] and 65 percent, 70 [percent] for Rockland; 65 percent for Westchester,” Caridi says. “And the thing that makes that more… not only is the number large that you see a very small, let’s go to Rockland, — only 30 percent of the jobs in Rockland pay above average wage jobs — but what is also happening is the percentage of wages that are paid to this small group, this 30 percent, is 58 percent of all wages. So it’s disproportionate to the number of jobs in those categories.”
On the growth front, Rockland County led the way for highest year-over-year private-sector employment growth at 2.6 percent. Caridi says professional and technical services in Rockland are a primary driver of higher-paying jobs, with finance and insurance industries expanding.
The report, which did not look into Sullivan County, uses preliminary data from the New York State Department of Labor Employment 2017 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.