‘Holy cow!’ Job official stunned by local unemployment rates

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 1:18 PM EST
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ALBANY, New York (WWNY) - The executive director of the Jefferson-Lewis Workforce Development Board is stunned by the December unemployment rates released by the state.

“‘Holy cow’ are the only words to describe these numbers,” said Cheryl Mayforth.

In Jefferson County, the jobless rate dropped nearly 3 percentage points compared to the year before. In December 2020, unemployment stood at 6.3 percent. Last month, it was 3.4 percent.

St. Lawrence County’s jobless rate was 3.3 percent last month, compared to 6.2 percent the year before.

In Lewis County, the unemployment rate went from 6.1 percent last December to 3.7 percent last month.

While at first glance, low jobless numbers look like a good thing, Mayforth says it shows the labor pool is drying up.

“This is the reason that no one can hire as the pool turned into a puddle and now it is a very small wet spot,” she said.

Mayforth says Jefferson and Lewis counties have never had an unemployment rate of 3 percent, especially during the winter months, according to data going back to 1990.

She says people who want to work are working. But, employers still need to fill jobs.

“It’s a buyer’s market for workers,” said Mayforth. “Opportunity is there.”

According to Mayforth, the labor pool is dwindling because more people are retiring and there’s not enough child care. She said the area lost 50 percent of child care providers during the pandemic.

The state’s unemployment rate was 5 percent last month.

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