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Syracuse metro area last in job growth, but report shows some good signs

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse.

A new report from the Brookings Institution puts the Syracuse metropolitan area last out of the country’s 100 largest metro areas in adding jobs from 2010 to 2015. The Syracuse metro area consists of Onondaga, Oswego and Madison counties. But some of the data is not as bad as it seems for the region.

Richard Shearer, one of the authors of the Metro Monitor 2017 report, said it is important to put the Syracuse metro area’s poor job ranking in perspective. Many areas similar in size were recovering from a massive hit they took during the 2008 recession which propelled them to the top of the list.

"Syracuse has been a slow and steady economy for many years," Shearer said. "It was fairly resilient during the economic recession compared to a lot of other metropolitan areas. And its recovery has been similarly slow and steady. It has seen a fairly modest recovery after a fairly modest recession."

Colleges and universities have been adding jobs in the region.  Shearer said the federal and state governments have as well.

"Both of those added a considerable number of jobs during the period and at a faster rate than other metropolitan areas," Shearer said.

Employment declined in manufacturing and temp jobs, according to the report. But the biggest area of job loss was from local government.

"It’s not just people who work at city hall, its police officers, firefighters, teachers," Shearer said. "These can be pretty good paying jobs regardless of your skill level."

Another area of concern is a 12 percent decline in jobs at young businesses; everything from startups to mom and pop stores, what Shearer calls, the bedrock of a community. 

"That could spell trouble down the line if young firms are either not being created or not hiring because you're not going to see continued job growth or as strong job growth in the future from those firms," Shearer said.

Employment for black people jumped 17 percent, although their wages dipped slightly. Poverty declined among all races and levels of education especially for people with just a high school diploma. Their wages rose more than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

"Hiring in sectors like retail and hospitality fueled a lot of the job growth, which allowed a lot of low or moderately skilled people to gain employment," Shearer said.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said the overall trends in economic growth need to be addressed by Albany and Washington who set tax policy and workforce development.

"Upstate New York, we came to prominence with a manufacturing economy and we have not been able to make the transition to a new knowledge economy," Miner said.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.