New federal numbers show jobs down, wages up locally

Jan 4, 2021

Employment in the Buffalo area is improving a little bit, although that’s from a very low base this spring when the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the job market.

Dark stores, bars and restaurants are a sign of how the local leisure and hospitality industry has cratered in the pandemic. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that from June 2019-June 2020, employment in that sector dropped more than 40% in the Buffalo area. That’s part of the overall jobs drop in the region of more than 7%.

Regional Economist Bruce Bergman said other industries saw significant losses, as well.

"There is quite a range here in terms of the declines," Bergman said. "You can see that financial activities lost 6% over the year compared to leisure and hospitality, down 44%."

The BLS figures showed employment fell in each of the 18 largest counties in the state, including Erie. At the same time, every one saw wage increases, some large. Fifteen large counties had wage increases that exceeded the national rate of 8.6%. In Erie County, wages rose 12% June 2019-June 2020.

Looking forward, there were significant improvements in the jobs picture in the Buffalo area June-October, according to Bergman, although the pandemic still made itself felt. In October, the unemployment rate in the Buffalo area was just under 7%, while a year earlier it had been just over 4%.

"The Buffalo area was hit harder than the U.S. as a whole, when we look at the growth in employment," Bergman said. "The decline was sharper in Buffalo, but you do see this very sharp increase that we are holding right now."

For the year ending in June 2020, employment decreased 15.9% statewide and 9.4% nationally.