By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- About 8.2 percent of New York's labor force was unemployed in September, down from 8.8 percent the previous month, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report Tuesday.
The rate, which is still preliminary and not seasonally adjusted, is the same as September 2011, when there was also 8.2 percent unemployment.
The state's rate is higher than the national unemployment rate in September, which was 7.6 percent, down from 8.8 percent a year earlier.
"The statewide rate came down. That is kind of in line with what we are seeing with our job figures," said Kevin Jack, labor market analyst for the state Department of Labor.
"Since the beginning of the state's economic recovery, we've added about 350,000 private-sector jobs," he continued. "Almost every time you see growth in the job numbers, you ultimately see a decline in the unemployment rate."
Jack warned against taking numbers that are not seasonally adjusted too seriously, especially in September, because cyclical changes in employment can bog down or boost those rates.
For example, college students who leave summer jobs can add to the number of unemployed, but school teachers who were not working in the summer and go back to school can cause upward shifts.
Adjusted for the season, New York's unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, the state reported earlier this month. That is a 0.2 percent decrease from August's comparable wait.
"September 2012 was a good month for our state's economy," Bohdan Wynnyk, deputy director of the state Division of Research and Statistics said in a statement Oct. 18. "The private sector job count grew by 2,900, continuing the trend of growth in the state and leading to an all-time high job count. Additionally, the number of unemployed New Yorkers declined by 23,200."
Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, a Rochester-based business group, said the growth is underwhelming.
"We still continue to be a high-cost state," Sampson said. "Businesses are always faced with the decision of growing here in New York state or growing elsewhere, and unfortunately, we've seen two very clear examples of that."
He was referring to Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a Connecticut-based company that announced recently it will close its factory in Chemung County, costing the area 570 jobs, and General Motors, which is closing its fuel cell plant near Rochester, moving 220 positions to Michigan.
Sampson said the state could improve its unemployment rate dramatically if it loosened regulations on businesses and allowed hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technique for releasing natural gas from the state's rich Marcellus Shale.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the majority of U.S. metropolitan areas -- 345 out of 372 -- had lower rates in September than the year before. Rates were higher in 22 areas and unchanged in five, according to the report.
Metropolitan areas in New York did not have the highest or the lowest rates in the country. The state's highest, Elmira at 9 percent, is lower than the nation's highest, three cities in Puerto Rico with rates between 15 and 15.5 percent.
Elmira had the second-highest jobless rate increase from September 2011 in the country. It jumped a full percentage point.
"Manufacturing is down 25 to 30 percent across the board," George Miner, president of Southern Tier Economic Growth said of the labor market in Elmira. "If somebody employed 400 people two years ago, today they employ 300 or less in a lot of cases."
He also mentioned Sikorsky's closing and the state's moratorium on hydrofracking as economic obstacles.
"We've lost gas companies that came here, built their Northeast headquarters here and have since moved to Pittsburgh because New York doesn't allow drilling," Miner said.
Conservation groups have been critical of environmental impacts of hydrofracking while casting doubt on its economic benefits.
After Elmira, New York City -- including its northern suburbs but not Long Island -- had the highest unemployment rate, at 8.8 percent.
Forty-one areas in the country had rates lower than 5 percent, with Bismarck, N.D., registering the lowest rates, at 2.2 percent. In New York, Ithaca had the lowest at 5.7 percent.
Ithaca's September rates are down from August, when they were at 6.7 percent, and lower than September 2011, when they were at 5.9 percent.
Of metropolitan areas with 1 million or more residents, Buffalo-Niagara Falls registered the highest increase from September 2011 -- 0.7 percent.
Sampson said that area's proximity to Canada complicates growth.
"If New York weren't 50th in tax climate," he said, "we would have a competitive advantage."