One of the sections I tend to read in online news are local/state job reports, since they tend to be a bellwether for economic growth, and by extension new development projects that get featured in this blog. One of the things that has been of some curiosity to me in the past couple months is how poorly Ithaca’s economy appear to be doing. According to the NYS Labor Department, the state has seen about 2% in private sector jobs over the past 12 months – about 134,000. Not great, but not bad for a state that has been bogged down in economic doldrums since Gerald Ford was in office. As one would expect, some metros do better (Kingston, Utica-Rome) and two show remarkable decreases of -3.6% and -5.6%. These would be Elmira and Ithaca respectively.
Now, perhaps its just me, but if the economic shrank 6%in one year in a county of Tompkin’s size, you’d hear about it (and no, I don’t think there’s some vast political conspiracy by some partisan group to hide the figures). 3,200 jobs lost is something that can’t seem to occur unless there was very large company closing, something that would’ve been alluded to in the Ithaca Journal. As far as I know, Borg-Warner is still operating, and Cornell laid off at most a small fraction of 3,200 in the past year. There haven’t been huge decreases in sales of “essential” goods, not has help wanted advertising changed dramatically (assuming the monthly reports of Elias Kacapyr are correct, anyway). So for the longest time, I had been wondering what the heck was going on in Tompkins County.
Well, it would seem that I wasn’t the only one wondering about this. The local county development agency accuses the Board of Labor Statistics of undercounting jobs, a problem they state has been an issue in the recent past. As much as the cynic within me is tempted to see as someone just trying to downplay the number, I’m inclined to believe that they’re right, because the rest of the numbers don’t show the drastic changes such a sharp drop would entail. One would expect a large drop in help wanted advertising, a reduction in building permits, and a decrease in sales, especially luxury goods. While these all have had ups and downs, none of these have changed to a degree that would support such a steep job loss. So, it doesn’t pass the logic test (unless one argues there much more commuting to the 4,400 jobs added in Binghamton and Syracuse).
Of course, any job loss is a bad thing. But I wonder where in the world the Bureau of Labor Statistics is getting these numbers.