By Ashley Hupfl
ALBANY -- Upstate New York has seen a total job growth of 1.2 percent over the past four years, while the nation has seen a growth rate of nearly three times that, according to a report Wednesday from a labor-backed think tank.
The report from the Albany-based Fiscal Policy Institute found New York has recovered jobs lost during the recent economic recession, but still has a "job deficit" of 156,000. That number is the additional jobs needed to match the pre-recession rate of jobs compared to working age New Yorkers.
Meanwhile, median wages have fallen nearly 7 percent for men and 1 percent for women over the past 10 years, according to the report.
"Yes, New York state is in recovery, but we're still not able to walk across the room without crutches, not to mention start training for a marathon," said James Parrott, the think tank's deputy director and chief economist.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office disputed the findings, and the report showed signs of economic improvement in New York. Cuomo took office in 2011, and the economy has expanded, his office said.
New York has managed the sixth-best job growth performance among all 50 states since the recession started, according to the report.
"The facts are clear," said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi. "Since the governor took office we have added 300,000 private sector jobs, the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since 2009, upstate unemployment is now lower than the national average and all these facts were cited by Moody's when they gave New York a positive outlook last week."
The Fiscal Policy Institute has been publishing annual reports on "The State of Working New York" since 1999. The reports track recent and longer-term economic trends to see how they are affecting New York workers.
According to the report, there were 718,000 New York residents unemployed in July. The average unemployed New York worker experiences a period of joblessness of 37 weeks, compared to the national average of 33 weeks, according to the study.
The state's unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent in June, dipping to its lowest level since 2009 and below the national average for the first time in 18 months. It remained flat in July, according to the state Department of Labor.
In response to a similar report from the state Comptroller's Office last week, Cuomo's budget director Robert Megna pointed to Moody's Investor Service, a credit-rating agency that recently moved the state's credit outlook to "positive."
"Moody's report ... cited that New York State's recent job growth, which includes adding 300,000 private sector jobs in the last two and a half years has 'surpassed or closely approximated the U.S,'" Megna said in his statement last week.
Initial unemployment claim rates have declined from a high in 2009, according to the report, but the state's unemployment rate still lags the pre-recession levels, when it was as low as 4.3 percent in 2007.
The study found that state and federal budget cuts have reduced the number of government employees, which created a loss of middle-wage jobs in the state. Most job growth found in New York in industries such as restaurants and retail that pay lower wages, according to the labor-backed group.
The decline of middle-wage jobs will still continue, the study estimates.
Mike Durant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said tax policies pushed for by the left-leaning think tank have helped lead to problems that have hurt small business.
"The best way to help the economy is accountability for higher taxes," Durant said.