Role reversal: National job market posts major gains as Hudson Valley growth halts

TGIF. I am convinced that the groundhog jinxed us – what other explanation could there possibly be for my thermometer displaying a below-freezing temperature this morning for the first time in several days?

On the jobs report, I’ll cut right to the chase: this one caught everyone off-guard, and in the best way possible. As of 8 a.m. this morning, a half hour before the scheduled release of the January employment report, the experts were calling for anywhere from 95,000 to 180,000 net jobs added last month. At the low end, that would have represented a major setback; at the higher end, it would have been encouraging but still not the number we were hoping for.

It turns out everyone (except the groundhog) was wrong. The U.S. economy added a whopping 243,000 jobs in January, bringing the employment rate down to 8.3% from 8.5% last month and 8.7% in November. The private sector job count was 257,000. Gains were spread across manufacturing, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality. The Labor Department also revised the November and December jobs numbers, saying the economy added 60,000 more jobs in those two months than was initially thought.

This, folks, is very big. The last time this few people were unemployed, it was February of 2009 and President Obama had just taken office. That’s not to say we’re back to operating at full-steam: underemployment – or the measure of people who are working less and earning less than they would ideally like to be – is still high (18.8%, according to Gallup’s daily polls).

Closer to home there is reason to be concerned as well. In the Hudson Valley, the unemployment rate actually increased in December, and while January jobs numbers won’t come out for another couple of weeks, the signs are not looking good. The job recovery has slowed in our neighborhood – and for a crystal-clear (and unavoidable) reason: because we put most of our eggs in a rotten basket.

Health care and biotech have been huge in Westchester and the Hudson Valley. The leisure and hospitality industry is doing better than it has in years. But the beating heart of the Westchester economy is the securities industry and those it employs. And therein lies the problem.

According to a report from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the securities industry lost $3 billion in the third quarter and posted similarly weak earnings in the fourth quarter. There have been 4,300 jobs lost in the industry since last April.

New York has posted a net loss of 11,200 private sector jobs since July, according to the report, and the average salaries of the jobs created in the past two years is more than 40% lower than the average salaries of the jobs lost in the state during the recession. The government sector has shed 29,300 jobs over the last two years, and the state’s GDP is expected to grow by just 1.7% in 2012 – below the expected 2%+ national GDP growth.

So while today’s job report is something to celebrate, know that here in New York, there is still a long recovery ahead.

Friday Roundup: U.S. adds 103K jobs; Aureon Biosciences folds; State approves Memorial Sloan-Kettering project

TGIF. It is a beautiful Friday, the weekend is shaping up to be a great one, and Alex Rodriguez made it two consecutive seasons in which he has ended the New York Yankees’ playoff run with a strike-out. On to the news!

Driving the day: The U.S. economy added 103,000 non-farm jobs in September, exceeding nearly every analysts’ projections. That said, the employment rate held steady at a discouraging 9.1 percent. T.D. Bank senior economist James Marple said, “This was definitely a good report and a repudiation of the most strident calls that the U.S. has already slipped into recession. Nonetheless, we should hold off on breaking out the champagne.” Marple also predicted that the U.S. GDP grew at a rate of two to two and a half percent for the third quarter of this year (which would be an improvement over the second quarter, but still far below pre-recession levels).

Some notes of importance:

  • The employment numbers were buoyed by the return to work of approximately 45,000 striking Verizon employees.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics revised last month’s job data up by 57,000 (from initial estimates of zero job growth), another positive.
  • Including the above revisions, the last two months have averaged job growth of 80,000 per month.
  • Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi said on MSNBC this morning that the economy needs to add between 125,000 and 150,000 jobs each month if we are to see the unemployment rate drop.

**New York State will release the state’s unemployment data for September on Oct. 20th.

They Said It: “I think we’re in as much a psychological slump as a real economic slump.” – Eleanor Clift, at Business Council of Westchester’s 2011 Annual Dinner, held last night at the Hilton Rye Town.  


> Yonkers biotech company Aureon Biosciences unexpectedly closed last Tuesday, according to documents filed with the N.Y. Department of Labor. Founded in 2002, Aureon was a founding member of “N.Y. BioHud Valley,” a public-private campaign aimed at promoting the Hudson Valley as a hub for biotechnology research and development. With the closing, the company’s 95 employees were laid off. More on Aureon Biosciences closing coming soon at

> Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s plan to build a $143 million, 114,000-square-foot cancer treatment center at 500 Westchester Ave. in Harrison was approved yesterday by the N.Y. Public Health and Health Planning Council, clearing the last major hurdle for the project.

Jobs numbers due out at 8:30 a.m. – no change predicted to 9.1% unemployment

We will check in shortly after the employment numbers are revealed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 this morning. Predictions range from 50,000-80,000 new jobs, which would not be enough to lower the unemployment rate from its September level of 9.1 percent if they turn out to be accurate. Stay tuned.

Brace yourself: NY posts dismal August jobs numbers

We knew the good news wasn’t going to last. What we didn’t realize was the extent of the apparent damage of Congress’s debt debacle and the ensuing financial instability.

In July, private-sector employers in New York state added 14,100 jobs, good for a 0.2 percent increase from June.

In August, it was a complete reversal: private-sector employment contracted by 30,700 jobs, a decline of 0.4 percent. I repeat: the state’s private sector lost over 30,000 jobs.

There is one important disclaimer, that being the Verizon Wireless strike that affected 17,000 New York employees. Now I’m not a math whiz, but to me that still spells out over 13,000 jobs lost. This is the private sector we’re talking about there, not the government.

The Putnam-Rockland-Westchester region was equally pummelled, losing 5,900 private-sector jobs from July to August.

Stay tuned for more updates, including the August unemployment rate for each individual county, as they are made available by the state Department of Labor next week.

Good week/bad week

Here’s a quick recap of the week that was, before I have to skiddadle (yes, that is a word) and hurricane-proof the house.

  • Westchester job prospects improving: The county’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.7% in July from 6.8% in June and from 7.3% in July 2010. The reality is that Westchester likely won’t see monthly a decline of more than 0.1 or 0.2 percent in the unemployment rate until at least 2012. However, by all accounts, this month’s jobs report was one of the best signs Westchester has received in some time
  • For the complete story on the county’s employment picture, visit us online!
  • National outlook takes a shellacking, but no panic: New-home sales dropped, consumer confidence fell significantly, and the U.S. revised its initial 2Q GDP growth rate down to a measly 1% from earlier estimates of 1.3% growth (admittedly, pitiful either way).
  • The glass-is-half-full take on everything we witnessed this week: the markets did not panic. Even though Fed Chairman Bernanke didn’t signal a new round of bond-buying as was hoped for by much of Wall Street, the markets still ended the week on a high note. Consumers are looking for anything – any sign – that the economy is recovering. Seeing the market perform well this week despite some discouraging news is in and of itself an encouraging thing for consumers.    

Private sector buoys Westchester job growth

The Westchester County unemployment rate in July dropped to 6.7 percent (down from 6.8 percent in June), the state Dept. of Labor announced yesterday.

Here are a few nuggets from the report:

  • From July 2010 to this past July, private sector jobs grew at a rate of 1.9 percent. Compare that to the period from July ’09-July ’10, when the private sector contracted by 0.1 percent. Big shift? Absolutely.
  • July is typically one of the slowest months for hiring, and we still saw a drop in the unemployment rate.
  • Growth came across four of the major industry sectors (Trade/Transportation/Utilities – 1,200 jobs over the past year; Professional and Business Services – 2,000 jobs; Private Education and Health Services – 2,600 jobs; Leisure and Hospitality – 5,000 jobs). Diversity is always a good thing.

(For more on the Westchester employment picture, pick up the Aug. 29 issue of the Westchester County Business Journal or check us out online at


The Week Ahead

Here’s a look at what will be driving news in the coming week:

JOBS JOBS JOBS The New York Dept. of Labor announced that the state added 29,400 jobs from June to July, with 14,100 of those coming in the private sector (with both numbers increasing at a faster rate than national economy). With strong private job growth in Westchester, particularly in the professional services and hospitality sectors, look for local unemployment rate to drop when it is released later this week.

BACK-TO-SCHOOL SURGE? Retail expert says that consumers are “scared out of their wits” and that retail is “in a catastrophe state.” Ominous sign for retailers hoping the back-to-school shopping season will boost revenue? See Kelly Liyakasa’s story for more.

MARKETS LOOK TO REBOUND Markets posted a strong opening on Monday morning, as investors look to move past H-P’s struggles and European uncertainty. Look for another up-and-down week on Wall Street.

WHAT NO ONE ELSE IS TALKING ABOUT Newspapers, led by USA Today publisher Gannett Co., are struggling and have seen lower advertising revenue across the board so far in 2011. See the WSJ story here.

DUE OUT THIS WEEK Stay posted for two major economic indicators, as the U.S. releases July new home sales numbers tomorrow and its second 2Q GDP estimate on Thursday.