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Syracuse heavily dependent on health care for economic recovery

Ryan Delaney

More than a third of the post-recession jobs Syracuse has gained have come in the health care sector. That's a percentage that puts it near the top of cities dependent on the industry for economic growth.

According to numbers tabulated by the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Institute, 35.9 percent of Syracuse's recently added jobs have been in health care. Only three other metro areas in the country had a higher percentage.

Since the height of the recession, 1,571 of the 4,379 jobs Syracuse has added were in health care. A tenth of all of Syracuse's jobs are now in the industry, up a few percentage points from before the recession.

Brookings’ Martha Ross says health care is a good industry to bank an economy on, but cities shouldn’t rely just on that.

"You do want a balanced approach," she said. "Just like investing, you want to diversify your economy so you’re not solely or disproportionately dependent upon one sector."

The wages tied to those health care jobs vary. Practitioners - positions like doctors and nurses - earn far more than the average salary. But some positions -- like orderlies or nurse’s aides – were below average.

"[Health care support workers are] one of the groups who are projected to grow the fastest. They earn low wages; considerably less than the average wage across all professions," Ross said. "They earn 35-40 percent less than the average worker."

Health care is playing a big role in most upstate cities’ recoveries. A fifth of recovered jobs in Albany were in health care. Eighteen percent of Rochester’s job growth came from the sector.

Buffalo has seen a slight drop of 559 health care jobs, or 3.9 percent.