Housing and retirements temper unemployment gains | Columbia County


Columbia County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, but that’s creating problems for local businesses.

Preliminary April 2022 unemployment rates from the New York State Department of Labor show Columbia County at 2.5%, the second-lowest rate in the state after the unemployment rate of 2 .3% of Saratoga and Tompkins counties.

“It’s a super complicated situation, but there are a few contributing factors,” Columbia-Greene Workforce NY Director Chris Nardone said Wednesday. “There are still many people who are disengaged from the labor market, who have been laid off for whatever reason or have lost their jobs for whatever reason throughout the pandemic and have chosen not to return to work for a reason or another. It’s unclear exactly how many of these people left, but there are a number of people who opted out and did not return. »

A large number of people have retired because of the pandemic, Nardone said. In Columbia and Greene counties, governments and school districts employ large numbers of people.

“Once you hit 30 in a county job or a school district job, you can just retire,” Nardone said. “The population was aging anyway and I think we reached a point where a lot of people could just say forget it, and I’m going to retire. It is not entirely clear how many people this is, but it is a significant number of people who have just retired and left the labor market.

The county also had a number of people who left because they were no longer able to find housing, Nardone said. While the county has seen an increase in the size of its total population during the pandemic, many people who moved into the county were second-home owners, often wealthy, who arrived from New York and other more rural, who do not necessarily participate in the traditional workforce of Columbia County.

“A lot of people just can’t afford to stay here,” Nardone said. “There are a ton of jobs here, but they’re usually pretty low-paying jobs, even though low unemployment has created this significant upward pressure on wages, the cost of housing has outpaced wage inflation maybe 3, 4, 5%, so there are people who, if they stay, can’t afford to live here.

All of these factors were occurring naturally, but the pandemic has exacerbated them, Nardone said. Columbia County saw a significant increase in the last census in the number of people over the age of 65 and a decrease in the number of people under the age of 18.

“This number is compounded by the number of people who are retiring and the number of people who have just left the workforce because there is no transport or there is no child care. ‘kids, so they’re stuck at home as the primary caregiver or they’re still uncertain, or they’ve learned to live on one income,” Nardone said. “And then people who want to work can’t afford to live in the county. So it’s just this perfect storm or this labor crisis or this economic crisis.

The current unemployment rate is among the lowest on record in Columbia County, Nardone said. Earlier this year it was 2.2%

“But overall, 2% is unheard of,” Nardone said. “It’s unbelievably low, dangerously low, very, very low.”

Local businesses are having difficulty finding and hiring employees.

“We just hired two new employees, as warehouse and delivery associates, and that was definitely a challenge for us,” said Julie Wojick, co-owner of Furniture Plus in Hudson.

She said there was a large pool of applicants, but there was a problem getting applicants to come in for an interview.

“They were applying for a job, we were doing interviews and they weren’t coming for the interview,” Wojick said. “Which was disappointing. The good news is that we have found two great employees and we are really happy with them.

It took about three weeks to fill the positions, Wojick said.

Bagel Tyme co-owner Jason Scherer said even with advertising on websites such as Indeed, it was difficult to bring in candidates for interviews.

“Sometimes I feel like these online hiring sites are a hoax because people never show up,” Scherer said. “These sites will charge you around $500, $600 a month to run an ad, you have a bunch of people applying, but when things go bad, nobody shows up. That’s like why waste money.

Scherer no longer has young applicants for jobs like before. He said he remembers years ago hundreds of kids were applying for summer jobs, and now one company is lucky to have six or eight.

“I wouldn’t recommend anyone start a business in these times,” Scherer said. “Because not only is there inflation, but there are also people who don’t work. it’s totally different now. People are more like they feel they have a right than they are trying to get things done through hard work. It’s a different kind of people now.

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