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October 19, 2017 - 4:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, news, business.

Genesee County has lost 100 jobs over the past 12 months, according to data released today by the Department of Labor.

For September 2017, there were 23,600 jobs in the county. The previous September, there were 23,500.

The total number of private sector jobs held steady at 17,800 year-over-year, which is also the same total as September 2015. The lowest number of private sector jobs locally over the past two decades was 16,800 in 2012. There haven't been as many as 18,000 private sector jobs in September since 2004 (18,100).

Labor is reporting 89,100 new jobs in the state since last year, but Western New York's two metropolitan areas reported job losses year-over-year. The Buffalo region has dropped from 564,900 to 561,400 and Rochester has dropped from 532,300 to 529,000.

There are 5,700 government jobs in the county, compared to 5,800 a year ago.

August 22, 2017 - 4:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, news, business.

Genesee County's unemployment rate ticked up a percentage point, even though the number of people reported as unemployed in the county remained steady at 1,300.

The rate rose year-over-year from 4.1 percent for July to 4.2.

There are 29,000 people in the county with jobs.

The total labor force -- the number of people working or looking for work -- is 30,300, down from 30,600.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is 4.6 percent. That's what's known as the U-3 number. The number that accounts for people who have stopped looking for jobs out of discouragement and part-time workers who would like full-time employment for the nation is 10.4 percent. That rate has been falling steadily since 2009 from a high of nearly 18 percent. (source, The Wall Street Journal)

That kind of detail is not available for job markets as small as Genesee County.

Wage growth nationally remains stagnant. 

The state's unemployment rate is 4.9 percent.

The GLOW unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, a tick higher than a year ago. The region's labor force has dropped from 98,300 to 96,900.

August 17, 2017 - 1:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, news.

Genesee County added 100 more jobs in July, in a year-over-year comparison, according to data released today by the NYS Department of Labor.

In July 2017, there were 23,700 jobs in the county, compared with 23,600 a year ago.

Over the past decade, the highest job count for July was in 2014, with 23,800 jobs. 

The state added 18,800 jobs in July, according to the report.

July 25, 2017 - 4:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, news.

While Genesee County's unemployment rate remains lower than state and national averages, it still was slightly higher in this past June than it was 12 months before.

The June rate was 4.2 percent, up from 3.9 percent a year ago.

The rate for the state and nation is 4.5 percent, which in both cases is an improvement over a year ago when the rates were 4.7 and 5.1.

Genesee County also didn't add any new jobs year over year, with 24,000 jobs reported in the county for June 2016 and June 2017.

The Rochester-area unemployment rate is 4.8 and in the Buffalo area it is 5.1.

There are 29,000 people with jobs in Genesee County. A year ago, there was 29,500. There are 1,300 people without jobs who are considered part of the labor force. Last year, that number was 1,200.

March 31, 2017 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in economy, jobs, trade policy, news.

Local Economic Development

This is part eight of an eight-part series on trade and how changes in policy might affect the local economy.

renderingwnystamp.jpg

There's been a lot of talk about trade from President Donald J. Trump, but so far, no real action -- no new trade deals, no concrete action on tariffs or border adjustments. But just the idea that there might be some future advantage to manufacturing in the United States is already having an impact locally, said Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

"At least in the short term, this push, this effort to try and balance the trade profiles and make sure the U.S. is on an equal footing with the rest of the world, honestly, we're seeing an uptick in interest in manufacturers looking for U.S. sites, including direct foreign investment," Hyde said.

It's almost like all the work of GCEDC since Hyde became the CEO 14 years ago aligns with this potential new direction for the country. During those 14 years, GCEDC has been aggressive about creating build-ready industrial parks, from Gateway II, Apple Tree Acres, Buffalo East Tech Park, the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and WNY STAMP.

"I think there is still a wave of optimism going on about whatever relative changes may be coming," Hyde said. "The president is very focused on trying to beef up manufacturing in America and that's certainly helped our focus here on Genesee County to bring back manufacturing in both food and ag and in advanced manufacturing." 

The president's potential policies just enhance GCEDC's efforts, Hyde said.

"There's a bit of a bubble and ramp up of interest in manufacturing products of late and siting new facilities and trying to bring back growth and manufacturing to the state."

Hyde said he's recently had specific inquiries from foreign investors in sites at Gateway II and STAMP, with a lot of activity around STAMP.

The plan is still to break ground on STAMP this spring, though there seems to be an air of uncertainty about the company expected to be STAMP's first tenant -- 1366 Technologies.

While 1366 has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital backing, has already signed contracts with foreign firms to buy its solar wafers, there is still a potential issue with the company receiving funding assistance from the Department of Energy.

The Trump Administration has taken steps that alarm some environmentalists concerned with climate science, but that has been mostly directed at the Environmental Protection Agency. Rick Perry, Trump's selection to head the Department of Energy, testified during his Senate confirmation hearing that he's had a change of heart on climate science and has come to accept climate change as a real concern.

"I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity," Perry said. "The question is, how do we address it in a thoughtful way that doesn't compromise economic growth, the affordability of energy, or American jobs."

On the manufacturing front, as 1366 officials point out, if the Trump Administration goal is to increase U.S. manufacturing and U.S. exports, 1366 will be exactly that kind of company. At least initially, 1366 expects to export all of its solar wafers.

We asked Laureen Sanderson, a spokesperson for 1366, about the status of the project in light of the new administration and when we can expect 1366 to break ground on its local factory. Here's her response:

Yes, we’re factoring in the change in administration into our business plans. We expect the new administration will support U.S. manufacturing jobs and we’re looking forward to working with the team to do just that. At this time, I don’t have any additional details or timing to share but I will be sure to let you know as soon as we do.

Your trade questions are all excellent but we don’t want to speculate. We obviously support policies that support the global industry and its growth. We do not need clarity to move forward. One of the great things about the Direct Wafer technology is just how competitive it is, the cost reductions we allow for are unmatched and that positions us really well.  

One of the possible trade policy changes is the Border Adjustment Tax. That would put a 20-percent tax on imports but make revenue derived from exports completely tax free.

"That would be a huge benefit for 1366," Hyde said.

One of the criticisms economists have leveled at a potentially more protectionistic regime from the Trump Administration is that the United States simply doesn't have the supply chain any longer to support increased domestic manufacturing.

Trump's trade policy advisor, Peter Navarro, doesn't think that will be a problem.

“We need to manufacture those components in a robust domestic supply chain that will spur job and wage growth," Navarro said.

Hyde said with Genesee County sitting half way between Rochester and Buffalo -- the second and third largest population centers in the state and the second and largest export areas in New York -- along with all of the build-ready sites, the county is well positioned for any repatriating of a manufacturing supply chain.

"A lot of manufacturers want supply chain partners within an hour of their manufacturing site," Hyde said. "Some of the things going on at the Federal level has us well positioned to attract some of that supply chain, depending on how things unfold."

Like a good entrepreneur, Hyde is always optimistic. He never lets go of the big vision he has for creating jobs in Genesee County and he's excited by the activity he is seeing around not just STAMP but Gateway II and the other sites GCEDC has ready for new factories.

"About 5.6 percent of New York's private sector jobs come from employment at foreign-owned companies," Hyde said. "Foreign direct investment is a prominent part of New York's economy. With a focused policy at the federal level, advanced manufacturing is something we could see go up and that means good-paying jobs. Advanced manufacturing is the best way to build wealth in a community."

GRAPHIC: A rendering of what WNY STAMP might look like some day.

March 29, 2017 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in economy, jobs, trade policy, news.

The GOP Plan: Border Adjustment Tax

This is part six of an eight-part series on trade and how changes in policy might affect the local economy.

eatcakesmalltariff.jpg
Editorial cartoon from 1912 illustrating the dilemma of tariffs: protect profits for producers, harm consumers.

President Donald J. Trump, as he did as candidate Trump, talks trade deals and the need for creating a series of bilateral agreements. He also threatens tariffs against countries he thinks are taking advantage of the United States such as Mexico and China.

But congressional Republicans have their own plan, though it's not one it's at all clear Trump supports.

The proposal, called a Border Adjustment Tax (BAT), is part of a broader push by the GOP to reform the tax code and lower corporate taxes.

The BAT changes how companies pay taxes on their profits. Effectively, imports would be taxed and any profits from exports would be tax free.

The goal is to encourage more U.S. manufacturing and protect domestic companies from lower-priced imports.

Rep. Chris Collins supports the Border Adjustment Tax, which is part of a bill pending in the House now.  The bill is a massive overall of the tax code that would eliminate almost all itemized deductions for corporations and individuals, except the home mortgage interest deduction and charitable contributions.

The corporate tax rate would fall from 35 percent to 20 percent.

The BAT has many critics and raises many concerns for U.S. businesses, particularly retailers, who are dependent on imports. And though Trump made comments during his campaign that indicated he might look favorably on it, he's made comments since taking office that express concern about the proposal.

“Under the border adjustment concept, if somebody is making a motorcycle or a plane in our country, they’re getting a credit for the plane they make before they send it over to wherever it’s going,” he said. “And you don’t need that plus lower taxes and everything else.

"And it's too complicated. They get credit on some parts and not other parts. Where was the part made? I don’t want that. I just want it nice and simple.”

As you might expect, import-dependent businesses, such as large retailers, are fearful of the BAT. They argue they make nothing themselves to export to offset the expense of the tax on the goods they import to sell to their customers. JCPenney CEO Marvin Ellison said the BAT would make profitability nearly impossible for his company, at least in the near term.

"It takes our tax structure, as an example, from roughly a 34-percent corporate tax to over 170 percent," Ellison said.

Consumer prices, he said, would go up 20 percent.

"That's simple math."

Some economists think it's not that simple.

It's possible, some say, that the rise in the value of the dollar will balance the cost adjustment on imports and exports, or wages and prices rise together and consumers don't feel the pinch.

That's what Collins said he believes.

Pete Zeliff, owner of p.w. minor, when talking more generally about tariffs, said he believes things will work out in America's favor because of the strength of our economy.

"Tariffs may drive up prices, they may not drive up prices," Zeliff said. "What they will do is get more people to work where labor rates will go up and more people will be able to afford to buy everything. We will start manufacturing more and more here and prices will go down because our efficiency will be higher. Instead of 80 percent of our products made overseas, 80 percent will be made in America, so you will see prices go down."

Where a BAT makes sense -- if your goal is to tax all imports and exempt all exports, the BAT makes that easier to do. There's no car on the road today that was all made in Japan or in Mexico or the United States. Parts and supplies come from all over the world. A car assembled in Mexico contains many parts, up to 40 percent in some cases, that were manufactured in the United States. A BAT makes it easier to track which pieces get taxed and which don't instead of trying to figure out what portion of a finished product counts as imported and which should be considered American made.

A potential problem with the BAT is that would make things more expensive that simply can't be produced in the United States. You will pay more for chocolate and coffee, and since U.S. waters don't produce all the seafood Americans consume, we rely on imports, therefore seafood prices will rise.

Tequila comes from Mexico and while some avocados are grown in California, not enough to meet customer demand. Without margaritas and guacamole, a lot of Super Bowl parties could be ruined.

Collins said he understands Constellation Brands, based in Victor, is concerned about importing Corona from Mexico if the BAT goes through.

"They say you can't make a Mexican beer in the U.S., therefore it should be exempt," Collins said. "Should there be an exemption? If you put in one exemption, somebody else is saying, 'what about me? what about me?' and then it all falls apart. You don't have a 20-percent tax rate. You have a 34-percent tax rate. Don't count on any exemptions."

The big thing about the BAT is it's a big unknown. It's never been tried before. It's not clear that it will mean higher prices for consumers or if a stronger dollar will offset the adjustment. It's not clear it will raise as much revenue as Republicans hope year-after-year or if it will create more jobs in the United States or if it will even lower the trade deficit. What it is is a giant experiment with the U.S. economy and that excites some economists. They get to see in real time, in a real-world setting, how economic theory works.

Meanwhile, we don't know yet whether the BAT will even become law. The White House has not endorsed the plan and support is far from solid in the Senate. The administration does seem to think it can strong-arm trading partners into buying more U.S. goods, even if the prices are higher than what might be available from other suppliers.

All of this puts a lot of uncertainty around key parts of the U.S. economy, and business managers tend to prefer certainty when planning how they will run their businesses But the local business leaders we spoke to weren't particularly unsettled by the current transition.

 

"At this point, that uncertainty doesn't affect us," said Jeff Glajch, vice president and CFO for Graham Manufacturing in Batavia. "If one of those things were to suddenly result in a 35-percent tariff, that could cause some angst in the short term, but we tend to think that anything like a trade war would be short lived. Both sides would realize how harmful it is to both sides and they will come to the table."

Collins, himself a businessman, said he understands the need for certainty and that there may be some turmoil that goes with changes, but in the long run, local businesses will be better off.

"We're trying to move this fast, this tax reform piece," Collins said. "We want to get it done in 200 days, not three years. I acknowledge that there is some uncertainty and that is unsettling because people don't like uncertainty. In the meantime, you've got your customers and you make your product and you go home and worry a little bit. But it's all good news on the horizon, so maybe you go to bed and dream in multicolor."

Previously:

March 28, 2017 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in economy, jobs, trade policy, news.

tradewithmexico2017.png

NAFTA

This is part five of an eight-part series on trade and how changes in policy might affect the local economy.

While farmers worry about the impact of changes to the current world trade regime and the place of the United States in that scheme, even local ag leaders have their complaints about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

During his campaign for president, Donald J. Trump criticized NAFTA repeatedly and zeroed in on trade with Mexico as his chief complaint with the pact. Local farmers, though, are more concerned about NAFTA's impact on trade with Canada.  

For local manufacturers, NAFTA isn't a big worry, though they, too, see some need for reforms.

Trump said renegotiating NAFTA would be a top priority once he took office, calling trade with Mexico one-sided, pointing to the surging trade deficit and his belief that NAFTA has caused job loss in the United States.  

The truth is more complex.

Since the agreement was ratified in 1994 (negotiations began under President George H.W.  Bush, and President Bill Clinton signed it after it was ratified by the Senate), the United States has swung from a $1.7 billion U.S. surplus in 1993 to a $63 billion deficit; however, in that same time, U.S. exports to Mexico have grown from $41 billion to $231 billion. Some five million U.S. jobs depend on exports to Mexico.

By some estimates, more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States have been lost to Mexico since the passage of NAFTA, mostly in Rust Belt states. It appears jobs created by NAFTA have popped up in more Southern states, where there was a more ready supply of non-union labor.

The pattern of manufacturers fleeing higher cost Northern states for Southern states began decades before NAFTA was ratified. Think of GTE-Sylvania eliminating more than 700 jobs in Batavia in 1976 and shifting production to North Carolina.  

Compare Sylvania leaving, or Massey-Harris Harvester Company, or, more recently, PepsiCo with the Quaker Muller plant -- all companies with no roots in Genesee County -- to p.w. minor, Liberty Pumps, Chapin, and Graham -- all locally grown companies that are still in business, some after more than 100 years.

The leaders of those companies hold a variety of views on NAFTA.

For Bergen-based Liberty Pumps, Canada is one of the prime export markets for the company, said CEO Charlie Cook and he isn't anticipating any trade policy changes that will disrupt the business.

"Not a lot is going to happen with NAFTA as far as our relationship with Canada," Cook said. "It might change our relationship with Mexico, but that is not a big market for us. There is a lot of potential for us in Mexico, but it's not currently a big market."

Pete Zeliff, CEO of p.w. minor, doesn't anticipate much impact from potential changes to NAFTA and favors trade barriers that protect U.S. manufacturers.

"Even if we run into problems with renegotiating these trade deals and we can't export as much, if we can't import as much then we don't need to export as much," Zeliff said. "It creates a bigger market for USA-made products."

Neither Mexico nor Canada figures big in Graham's imports or exports. Graham designs and manufactures vacuum and heat transfer equipment for energy markets.

"We sell across the globe," Jeff Glajch said. "We sent a lot to the Middle East, a lot to Asia, South America. We don't tend to do a lot of business in Europe. We don't have a particular country that is more than 10 percent of our sales."

Jim Campbell, CEO of Chapin, said that any change with NAFTA will have some impact on his business, but it's unclear now what that impact will be. He said he belongs to a group that represents CEOs of U.S. manufacturing companies and NAFTA isn't universally loved by that group.

"The general consensus is that NAFTA didn't work as well as everyone thought it would," Campbell said. 

He said he tends to favor the kind of bilateral agreements Trump has said he intends to seek.

"If we have an agreement with just Canada, we can try to work out things so they are favorable to both sides," Campbell said. "The issues with Mexico are quite different than the issues we might have with Canada."

That said, he wants to see what the Trump Administration does before deciding if it's good or bad. Any change will affect Chapin and his main competitors equally, he said, so he anticipates a level playing field in that regard.

"Depending on how they do it, it could work out really great or it could be a disaster," Campbell said. "All I know is NAFTA is the devil we know and we all work around it."

CHART: Exports have increased on both sides of the border with Mexico since NAFTA was signed.

Previously:

March 26, 2017 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, trade policy, news.

China and robots

This is part three of an eight-part series on trade and how changes in policy might affect the local economy.

usmanufacturing2017.jpg

Times change, Congressman Chris Collins argues. He doesn't dispute that for the later half of the 20th century, a regime of trade agreements and more open trade worked well for the United States, but we no longer live in the same post-war world that forged those instruments of trade.

We face competition from China that presents a unique challenge to U.S. economic dominance, and automation is eating jobs the way tornadoes tear through trailer parks.

"We went from an agricultural economy to an industrial, production economy and now through automation, we have fewer jobs," Collins said.

We don't know the future, he said, but "where are these people going to work if we don't make stuff? We need to have opportunities that others don't have."

The American Dream (a term first coined by historian James Truslow Adams in 1931) is an ethos founded on the idea that we are a country that makes stuff.

We are builders. We are factories. We are smokestacks and train tracks and men with lunch buckets and lug wrenches. 

The perception that Trump campaigned on is that the American Dream ain't what it used to be. Economists disagree over whether that's true. While over the past 30 years a greater share of income earned has gone to the nation's richest 1 percent, there's evidence that suggests it's still possible for the poor and middle class to move up the economic ladder.

The balance between income inequality and economic mobility is a matter of debate. For those who perceive a problem, the question is who or what to blame.

Trump found ready targets in China and trade deficits.

"We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what they're doing," Trump said during his campaign. "It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world."

While campaign, Trump said the trade deficit with China was either $400 billion and $500 billion. For 2016, it was actually $347 billion.

Economists debate how much impact China has had on U.S. manufacturing jobs since the country of 1.4 billion people joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. On one hand, while the United States has lost five million manufacturing jobs since then, actual factory output has increased at the same time; however, the Economic Policy Institute reports that the rise of China as a global economic power has displaced 2.7 million workers, including 2.1 million in manufacturing. 

China may pose a different kind of challenge for the U.S. economy than we've faced before, but it isn't clear the Trump Administration has come up with a strategy beyond slapping tariffs on every Chinese import.

The big worry among economists is that Trump's rhetoric, let alone actual tariffs, will spark a trade war. The man Trump hired to oversee the National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, is regarded as being ideologically opposed to China.

Even though the local economy has few direct ties to China, how the country's trade policy goes with China will have an impact locally.

To the degree that trade with China matters in Genesee County, it matters more to consumers and farmers than manufacturers. For consumers, trade with China means money saved on gadgets and consumer products. For farmers, China is a big part of world consumption of food, especially grain, so even if local corn and soybeans are never shipped directly to China, the price farmers can get for these commodities is based on worldwide prices and the strength or weakness of the dollar. 

The manufacturers we interviewed said, for the most part, they don't trade much with China nor do products from China directly compete with their own products.

For Batavia-based Chapin Manufacturing Inc., the biggest worry is how China handles protection of intellectual property, according to CEO Jim Campbell.

"Individual companies in China ignore our U.S. patents so we have to defend them most vigorously," Campbell said. "We go head-to-head with China in the Pacific Rim area, mostly in Australia and New Zealand. China has a significant advantage in freight costs to these areas over us in Batavia."

Trade with China is minimal for Graham Corp., said Jeff Glajch, vice president and CFO for Graham Manufacturing in Batavia. There are some parts Graham imports from China, but it's not a significant piece of the business, he said.

If there were new trade barriers with China, it wouldn't have a major direct impact on Graham, he said.

"In the big basket of all the changes, I don’t think it would cause us significant harm," Glajch said.

Any new difficulty in trade with China might have a bigger impact on Liberty Pumps, but CEO Charlie Cook didn't express much concern, though he said it's still too soon to say what might be coming that will change foreign trade for his company. China has been an area of company growth, he said, with sales growth of about 12 percent, which is a bit higher than companywide growth.

When it comes to trade and China, one of the more interesting stories in local manufacturing is p.w. minor, a company with a 150-year local history that late in its history moved much of its production to China before nearly going out of business two years ago. Then Pete Zeliff and a partner bought the company's assets and Zeliff went to work repatriating that factory work to Batavia.

But the twist here is that one reason p.w. minor could start making all of its own shoes again is automation.  

And what Zeliff did isn't unique these days in American manufacturing. It's called "reshoring."

Three years ago, fewer than 100 companies were known to have reshored manufacturing, but it's been a growing trend. One of the more interesting recent examples was highlighted by CBS Evening News a couple of months ago -- a bicycle company that is owned by a Chinese billionaire.

Zeliff sees a future U.S. manufacturing sector that is large enough to accommodate a robust workforce, even if there are fewer jobs per square foot. Trade barriers will help make that happen, he said.

"We’ll still have jobs, more high-tech jobs to run and program and maintain these robots and things," Zeliff said. "We’ll have less low-tech jobs and more high-tech jobs."

That's a view of the future shared by Collins. If there are going to be fewer manufacturing jobs, all the more reason to make sure those jobs stay in the United States.

"Times do change," Collins said. "It's a different world we live in now."

GRAPHIC: The chart shows the decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs since the 1940s while production output has continued to increase. Economists say this trend is the result of machines replacing more and more manual labor. It is a trend that accelerated in the 21st century as computers came to play a greater role in manufacturing.

Previously:

March 24, 2017 - 4:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in economy, jobs, trade policy, news.

Introduction

This is part one of an eight-part series on trade and how changes in policy might affect the local economy.

employment_pop2017.png

At the top of his agenda, Donald J. Trump, told supporters while campaigning for president was that he would bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

"I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created," Trump said at one campaign rally.

How Trump goes about reshaping American trade policy will likely have a profound effect not just on the whole United States but also on us in Genesee County as farmers, business owners, executives, employees, and families. As America's economy goes, so goes Genesee County, so over the past few of weeks, The Batavian has interviewed several local business leaders to see how Trump's campaign rhetoric and what has emerged as his administration's policy during his first 100 days in office are shaping their views of our shared economic future.

The views range from a full embrace of Trump's "Make America Great Again" bravado to fearful skepticism that trade barriers and protectionism will lead to trade wars and ultimately financial ruin.

"I think Trump is going to be good for us in business," said Pete Zeliff, owner of p.w. minor in Batavia. "He's going to start leveling the playing field. The way trade deals have been done, the playing field isn't level. It's really hard to compete with people overseas. Their labor is so much less, so naturally, things cost less money. What Trump has talked about, leveling the playing field makes total sense to me."

Jeff Glajch, vice president and CFO for Graham Manufacturing in Batavia, said that with Graham exporting more than it imports -- about 40 percent of its sales are overseas -- he thinks some of the policies contemplated by Trump and the Republicans in Congress will not only be great for Graham, but great for America and great for Batavia. Graham employees nearly 300 people locally and Glajch, who remembers more manufacturers here 30 years ago, would like to see a resurgence in local manufacturing. 

"We're encouraged by anything that favors U.S. production because I think we've been unfavored for quite a while," Glajch said. "It would be nice to see that shift back in our direction a little bit. It would be great as a country."

On the campaign trail, Trump spoke frequently of increasing tariffs, tearing up trade deals such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and entering into a series of bilateral trade agreements (cutting deals with only one country at a time instead of deals that encompass several countries). To economists, that rhetoric sounds a lot like protectionism, and that's a dirty word to those who favor free trade.

Craig Yunker, CEO of CY Farms, said he favors free trade and is fearful of what Trump's disruption of international trade norms might do to the local and national economy. 

"The issue I have with people who talk about trade as a zero-sum game is that trade is a win-win game," Yunker said. "It's a very positive thing. It leads to higher incomes for both parties if done right."

"The issue," he added, "is that when we look at the percent of the pie we get rather than the size of the pie. We see a smaller piece of the pie, but the economy has expanded. The issue of the anti-trade mentality is to look at 'what is my share of the pie?' and the free-trade mentality and a more pro-growth mentality is 'let's grow a bigger pie.' "

Rep. Chris Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump for president, said Trump's trade policies, and the policies he's pursuing in Congress with fellow Republicans, are unapologetically protectionist.

"Absolutely," he said.

Collins said he's concerned about the people who have lost factory jobs. They aren't the kind of people who are going to become rocket scientists, he said, or researchers. When they can't find a job, they become depressed, and too often they wind up in service-sector jobs at lower wages.

"We need to make stuff and give people an opportunity to make a good living who have a high school (diploma) or a community college degree," Collins said.

Top graphic: The graphic shows the number of people employed as a percentage of the U.S. population. As you can see, prior to the 2001 recession, the number hit 81.6 percent. It climbed back up to 80 percent prior to the 2008 recession and has been climbing for the past five years hitting 78 percent at the start of 2017.

March 23, 2017 - 6:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, news.

While the State of New York is reporting its lowest unemployment rate in a decade, at 4.4 percent, Genesee County saw a slight uptick in its year-over-year unemployment rate, according to data released today by the Department of Labor.

The local rate is 5.8 percent. A year ago in February, it was 5.6 percent.

The state records 21,900 jobs in the county. This the third straight year the total number of jobs for February in the county hit 21,900. The highest February number over the past three decades was 22,400 in 2008.

Even at 5.8 percent, the jobless count is still lower than it has been over the past several years. with the exception of last year. The lowest local rate for February was recorded at 4.7 percent in 2001.

The February unemployment rate for the nation is reported at 4.7 percent.

A key indicator of the overall national employment picture is the prime-age percentage of the population in the workforce. It fell to 75 percent at the depths of the recession in 2010 and 2011. In February it hit its highest level since the recovery, 78.3 percent. Prior to the 2002 recession, it was as high as 82 percent.

The other interesting study that came out today, related to the national economy, is a report on what are called "deaths of despair" -- people dying of suicide, alcoholism or drugs, which rose dramatically among middle-aged whites from 2000 to 2014. According to the map, Genesee County was one of the few areas in the country that didn't see an increase in that statistic.

August 25, 2016 - 9:01am
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, unemployment, economy, business.

Genesee County's unemployment rate last month was at its lowest level for July since 2006, hitting 4.0, lower by sixth-tenths of a percent from July of last year.

In 2006, the rate was 4.0 and the last time it was lower was in 2001, at 3.7 percent. The highest rate over the past decade was 7.5 percent in 2012.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is 5.1 percent and for New York State it is 5.0.

In June for Genesee County, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent. June's rate locally is usually the same or lower than July.

The county's labor participation total -- the number of people working or actively looking for work is 30,800. A year ago it was 31,400. The highest level this century was 34,800 in 2008.

The unemployment rate for the GLOW region is 4.5 percent, down from 5.2 percent a year ago.

In the Rochester area, the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. It's 4.9 percent in the Buffalo area.

August 19, 2016 - 9:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, employment, economy.

There were a reported 23,900 jobs in Genesee County in July, according to the NYS Department of Labor. That figure is 100 jobs below the number of a year ago in July.

Overall, New York added 131,000 jobs year over year. The Buffalo area added 4,400 jobs and Rochester added 700 jobs.

The region's unemployment rates for July have not yet been released.

At the start of the recession in 2008, the July report for Genesee County tallied 24,600. That number fell as low as 23,000 in 2013.

Goods-producing jobs in Genesee County held steady year over year, but service-producing jobs in the county fell from 19,900 to 19,800. Government jobs also fell from 5,500 to 5,400. Education and Health Services gained 100 jobs, going from 2,700 to 2,800.

In the past week, a handful of local business owners have told The Batavian they are finding it hard to find qualified candidates for open positions.

July 30, 2016 - 1:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in employment, economy, business, news.

Genesee County's unemployment rate remains at pre-recession levels, hitting 3.8 percent for the second month in a row, but there are still fewer people working locally than there were the last time it hit 3.8, in August 2007.

Then, according to NYS labor department statistics, there were 32,600 people with jobs in the county. In June 2016, the most current employment numbers, there were 29,700 people with jobs, a drop of more than 3,000 employed residents.

The labor force participation number has dropped over the same span from 33,900 to 30,800. The number in June 2015 was 31,200.

The labor force participation number reflects the total number of people either working or actively looking for employment. It does not include people who have stopped looking for work, nor does it include people who have voluntarily decided to retire (which as Baby Boomer age does account for at least some of decrease in workforce participation) or people who dropped out of the labor force because of disability.

From 2007 to 2015, Genesee County's population rose from 58,159 to 58,937.

The lowest number of employed local residents over the past 10 years was in January 2015, when 27,300 residents had jobs. The unemployment rate then was 6.8 percent.

Since 1990, the number of employed locally has hovered the range 27,000 and 31,000, and the labor force participation number has remained within a similar range.

These numbers reflect the job market for residents, as for the jobs currently filled within Genesee County, the June 2015 number is 24,000, which is exactly where it was a year ago for non-farm jobs.

January 28, 2016 - 7:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy.

There were 800 more residents of Genesee County with jobs in December 2015 than there were in December 2014, according to the latest figures released by the Department of Labor.

The county's unemployment rate for December was 4.8, 7/10ths of a percentage point better than last year, but 2/10ths higher than November.

The number of jobless claims fell year-over-year by 200, from 1,600 to 1,400.

There are 28,300 residents with jobs, compared to 27,400 a year ago.

As for the total number of filled non-farm jobs in Genesee County, the number held steady year-over-year at 22,600. It was 22,700 in November.

The unemployment rate for the GLOW (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties) is 5.1 percent. It was 6 percent a year ago and 7.1 percent at the start of 2015.

November 25, 2015 - 5:38pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Genes County, economy, jobs.

Genesee County workers have something to be thankful for this season.

The unemployment rate — and the number of county residents without jobs — are both down, thanks in part, perhaps, to robust job creation in the Buffalo and Rochester regions.

Genesee County’s unemployment rate fell from 4.6 percent to 4.2 percent from October 2014 to October 2015, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

The Labor Department said there were 29,000 people with jobs in Genesee County, an increase of .2 percent from the 28,800 reported in 2014.

A total of 1,300 county residents are without jobs. That represents a decrease of .1 percent, or 100 people, between October 2014 and this year, the Labor Department said.

Jobless numbers were reported down in every county statewide. Unemployment in the Buffalo-Niagara region was 4.8 percent (down from 5.4 percent in October 2014), while the five-county Rochester region rate was 4.5 percent (down from 5.1 percent).

Unemployment rate figures are not seasonally adjusted, the Labor Department cautioned, meaning they do not reflect hiring related to holidays or the weather. Year-to-year comparisons are considered valid.

Between September and October 2015, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 5.1 percent to 4.8 percent, its lowest level since 2007.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department on Tuesday said the state’s private sector job count increased by 168,600 from October 2014 to October 2015. The number of private sector jobs in New York state was a record 7,859,000.

The Buffalo-Niagara Falls and Rochester metro areas were among the top five in the state for private sector job growth.

Rochester added 8,400 private sector jobs between October 2015 and October 2014, an increase of 1.9 percent. Buffalo-Niagara falls added 8,700, an increase of 1.8 percent.

At the same time, Genesee County lost 200 private sector and government jobs, according to the Labor Department. That represents a decrease of .9 percent.

New York’s strengthening economy reflects the national outlook. U.S. economic growth during the third quarter was revised up to 2.1 percent, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The U.S. Commerce Department had previously reported a rate of 1.5 percent, the Times said.

The news pleased economists:

For all of 2015, the rate of economic growth is expected to be about 2.5 percent, not much different from the 2.4 percent rate in 2014.

The tepid pace prompted Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, to call this the “tortoise recovery” in a recent note to clients. But that sobriquet does not mean the economy has been uniformly lackluster.

“While this expansion may go uncelebrated, growth in fact has been good enough to achieve a great deal of cumulative progress in the labor market,” he added. “We now expect that the U.S. economy will reach full employment within the next 12 months — the ‘tortoise recovery’ looks to be approaching the finishing line.”

August 25, 2015 - 12:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, business, unemployment.

Genesee County's unemployment rate was reported at below 5 percent for the third straight month, with a July number of 4.7 percent.

The July rate is the lowest its been for the midsummer month since 2007, when the rate was 4.1 percent.

The 2015 figure is lower than a year ago when the rate was 5.0.

In all, the labor department currently lists 1,500 local residents without jobs and 17,800 with jobs.

The department also reports a total of 24,000 non-farm jobs in the county, up slightly from the previous July when there were 23,800 jobs reported. There were 24,400 jobs reported in the county in June.

The lowest recorded unemployment rate for July since 1990 is 3.4 percent. The highest jobs number for July since is 24,600 in 2008.

August 11, 2015 - 5:21pm
posted by Traci Turner in business, jobs, economy, career center.

helpwantedaug112015.jpg

Local employers are faced with a new obstacle: too many job openings and not enough workers to fill them.

Due to a strengthening labor market, the number of people hunting for jobs is dwindling.

Genesee County's unemployment rate has dropped to 4.5 percent in June according to Department of Labor statistics. The county hasn't experienced an unemployment rate this low since October 2007.

With the unemployment rate at its lowest figure in eight years, positions are becoming harder to fill. Many local employers have increased their hiring since the beginning of the year. More than 300 job openings in the Batavia area are currently posted on the New York State job bank Web site. Some positions have been up for a couple weeks while others have been posted for months. 

Help wanted signs have even made a comeback as a way for employers to find workers.

"Employers put the help wanted sign out with the hope to attract a person who may not be Internet savvy, or a friend that will pass the information on to a person they know who is looking for a job," said Scott Gage, director of the Genesee County Job Development Center. "As the available talent pool gets smaller and smaller, you are going to see more of those help wanted signs because it is a low technology way to get workers."

Employers typically hire to fill entry-level positions and young emerging workers are their main source for these types of jobs.

Melissa Landers, human resource generalist for Batavia Downs Gaming and Racetrack, has been hiring a large amount young people to fill food and beverage positions for the racing season. Landers said it's hard to find workers because Batavia Downs is open every day of the year and people don't like to work overnights and holidays.

For jobs that require prior training or experience, Gage has recently seen the pool of available workers shrink drastically.

"Employers are having a hard time finding workers because there is such competition among themselves, especially for skilled workers," Gage said.

According to Gage, one of the hardest positions to fill is maintenance mechanics in the food-production industry. With the increased number of food-production companies in the county, mechanics that have experience repairing food-processing equipment are in high demand. The competition among employers has even caused wage rates to rise for the position. 

One reason for the shortage lies in the historical shift from an emphasis on trade skill jobs to jobs that require a college degree. Consequently, there is a smaller pool of workers who have vocational training. 

Gage frequently gets job orders from employers that are looking for people with vocational skills and students who have graduated from Genesee Valley Educational Partnership are strong candidates for these jobs.

"Emerging workers with vocational training have a leg up in the workforce," Gage said. "They are getting wage rates similar to students who have completed two years of college."

While employers look for applicants with training and similar work experiences, it's also important to find an applicant with a strong work ethic and positive attitude.

Shelley Falitico, director of Genesee ARC, looks for applicants that are compassionate and open to learning different approaches for working with people who have disabilities.

Due to a new two-year contract the ARC has signed with area schools, she has recently been hiring bus drivers to transport children with disabilities.

The positions Falitico finds most challenging to fill are physical therapists and speech pathologists. Competition is high for these positions and many qualified applicants relocate to bigger cities to work, Falitico said.

Colleen Flynn, community relations director at United Memorial Medical Center, said the hopsital will search a little longer to find an applicant who understands the importance of customer service with patients and knows how to work well in a team environment.

"It's important that they have the skills necessary for the position, but it's really about the attitude and the right kind of personality to round out the team," Flynn said.

With the recent growth at UMMC, the hospital has been having a difficult time filling specialized positions such as clinical laboratory technologists. According to Flynn, college students are not majoring in that field as much and there is a significant amount of competition among employers. Other positions such as clinical analysts and registered nurse specialities are also hard to fill because qualified applicants often live in larger cities.

"In our region, it's much harder to recruit people to come to a rural county than if you live in a highly populated area like Buffalo or Rochester," Flynn said. "When you are the only hospital in the county, you have to work harder to attract workers because they typically are not already here."

One of the Career Center's goals is to make the county more attractive to families and students graduating from BOCES and Genesee Community College. The center is also working with the Genesee County Business Education Alliance to develop highly skilled jobs and promote occupations where there are shortages. 

In the future, Gage foresees the employer base and job market in county continuing to grow.

"Based on what I'm seeing and local committees who are continuing to develop the job market in Genesee County, I think we are well positioned to bring new opportunities to the area," Gage said. "The county is becoming really competitive with other areas in the state and even nationwide."

July 23, 2015 - 9:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, business.

The unemployment rate for Genesee County hit a 100-month low for June, according to Department of Labor statistics.

The rate fell to 4.5 percent. The last time the rate was that low or lower was October 2007, when the rate stood at 4.2 percent.

The lowest rate of that year was 3.8 percent in August and in May.

A year ago, the June rate was 4.8 percent. It was 4.7 percent this May.

For June, there were 24,300 non-farm jobs in Genesee County, down from 24,600 in June 2015.  That June number is still the highest it's been so far in 2015, and with exception of last June, the highest it's been since July 2010.

Unemployment in Wyoming County is 4.9 percent, it's 6.1 in Orleans, and 5.3 in Livingston. In the Buffalo area, it's 5.3 percent and in the Rochester region, it's 5.1.

June 23, 2015 - 7:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, business.

The number of people with jobs in Genesee County has improved, according to statistics released today by the state Department of Labor.

The sunnier employment picture for local residents comes a couple of weeks after a labor department report revealed that the county fell flat on in-county job growth in May, but the same jobs report showed an increase in the workforce in Monroe and Erie counties.

There are 300 more local residents with jobs now than there were a year ago, according to today's report. The total has climbed from 28,900 in May 2014 to 29,200 this May.

That puts the Genesee County unemployment rate at 4.7 percent, compared to 5.0 in May 2014.

The 4.7-percent rate is low, but not the lowest figure of the past 12 months. The rate was 4.6 in October. In the past 12 months it's been as high as 6.8 percent, which was the figure in January.

The unemployment rate in Wyoming County is 5.2 percent, down form 5.8 percent a year ago. In Orleans it's dropped from 7.0 to 6.2 and in Livingston, from 5.7 to 5.1.

The state rate is 5.3 percent and the national rate is 5.3.

June 18, 2015 - 2:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, business.

Year-over-year job growth for Genesee County was stagnant in May, according to data released by the Department of Labor.

In May of 2014 and 2015, there were 23,900 jobs locally, according to the department's count.

The unchanged non-farm jobs number comes in a month that New York State as a whole added more than 142,000 jobs, jumping from 9.133 million jobs to 9.276 million jobs.

The Rochester area added 7,100 jobs and the Buffalo region added 13,000.

Wyoming County was also flat in jobs growth for May, holding steady at 13,500 jobs. The data for Livingston and Orleans counties are included in the Monroe County data.

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Contact: Howard Owens, publisher (howard (at) the batavian dot com); (585) 250-4118

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