Westchester County's unemployment rate climbed to 8 percent in January, better than the overall state rate of 9.4 percent but .4 percent worse than its year-ago rate of 7.6 percent, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.
January's jobless rate also rose in the Hudson Valley overall to 8.3 percent from 8 percent in January 2012.
The latest unemployment numbers pointed to a longer-term trend of slow job creation in the Hudson Valley. A new report from the Marist College Bureau of Economic Research found that in a 10-year period that ended in 2011, private-sector job creation in the Hudson Valley grew at an annual rate of .14 percent, even less than the .82 percent posted by New York City and the .25 percent by Long Island.
"Anemic job growth in both the private and public sectors placed downward pressure on wage growth," said the report by Christy Huebner Caridi, an economics professor at Marist. "Over the 10-year period, private-sector wages in the Hudson Valley grew at an annualized rate of 2.84 percent."
Still, in the new Labor Department report, Putnam and Rockland remained among the counties with the lowest unemployment rates in the state at 7.3 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. However, they both edged up from their January 2012 levels of 7 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively.
Despite reaching the 8 percent mark, Westchester County was tied for the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the state with Albany and Saratoga counties, according to the state. About 37,800 people in Westchester County were seeking jobs in January.
Orange County's rate edged up to 8.8 percent from 8.7 percent in January 2012, and Dutchess climbed to 8.6 percent from 8.3 percent in the same month a year ago. Ulster County's 9.9 percent jobless rate ranked it 27th among the state's 62 counties. In January 2012, its jobless rate was 9.3 percent.
Jim Brown, an analyst with the state Department of Labor, said the unemployment report also reflected an increase in the number of job seekers, including recent graduates, job hunters who are re-entering the labor market and retirees seeking to supplement their incomes.
Unemployment numbers count only active job seekers and not the so-called "discouraged unemployed" who have stopped searching.
"People move in and out of the labor market on a fairly regular basis," Brown said. "You see unemployment going up and you'd think the economy is shrinking, but actually we're adding jobs."
In January, he noted, the Hudson Valley had 1,028,600 employed residents versus 1,025,600 in January 2012.
Still, Brown acknowledged, the Hudson Valley, which the state defines as including Sullivan County, is growing at a rate below state and national levels.
Along with continued weakness in construction and manufacturing, the region is losing jobs in finance, including banking, real estate and financial services, primarily through layoffs, he said.
The Marist report showed the long-term decline in manufacturing jobs, which accounted for 9.5 percent of the Hudson Valley's private-sector employment in 2002 but only 6.8 percent of those jobs in 2011.
In addition, January's numbers typically reflect seasonal weakness as retailers lay off seasonal workers and construction projects are suspended in the face of winter weather, Brown said.