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Federal Reserve: Upstate job growth ‘losing steam’

Upstate New York’s brief growth spurt now is “losing steam,” according to a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — contradicting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s claims of upstate revitalization.

Upstate had a modest uptick in job growth from 2010 to 2015, gaining back the jobs that were lost in the 2008 recession. But since then, it has tailed off noticeably, the Federal Reserve found.

“Troublingly, though, job growth in the region stalled shortly after crossing this milestone. Indeed, only a handful of jobs have been added to the area’s total employment count since early 2016,” the report said. “ . . . Beginning in 2016, job growth upstate stalled at a time when the United States as a whole continued to add jobs at a steady pace. Indeed, since early 2016, job growth in the region has slowed to a paltry 0.3 percent annual rate — half the pace of growth the region experienced earlier in the expansion.”

The Federal Reserve noted that Buffalo and Rochester, upstate’s two largest cities, have shown the greatest job “weaknesses.” Construction jobs grew temporarily in Buffalo amid the building of Solar City factory project — a key element of the governor’s economic initiatives — but now have “wound down.” Rochester has been hit by a loss of manufacturing and retailing jobs. Gains in Albany and Syracuse and smaller cities haven’t offset the losses in Western New York, the report said.

The governor repeatedly has touted state government spending on upstate projects and made the pitch that the region is turning around. He noted that unemployment is down, which a Cuomo administration spokesman also said Wednesday in responding to the Federal Reserve findings.

“National economic growth slowed in 2016 and New York is not immune,” Morris Peters, a Budget Division spokesman said, “but under this administration unemployment is down in every region of the state, median household income growth is outpacing the nation as a whole, taxes are down for every New Yorker, and upstate is benefiting from the largest economic development investment in history.”

But fiscal watchdogs and Republicans point out that unemployment is down in part because of a decline in job seekers upstate (i.e., people moving away). They also say Cuomo has little to show for huge investments in Solar City, a currently empty upstate film hub and a spree of casinos.

“While the governor’s claims of upstate’s economic turnaround are numerous, actual results have been harder to come by,” Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) said recently. “Upstate New Yorkers are growing tired of failed initiative after failed initiative.”

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