Region’s Minority Unemployment Rate Drops
The region’s black unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in years. In 2016, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan statistical area (MSA) had a black unemployment rate of 12.5 percent, compared to 13.8 percent the previous year. Recently, that rate had climbed as high as 15.9 percent in 2013 according to a Center for Economic Growth (CEG) analysis of Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates.
Blacks in the Labor Force
The decline of this demographic’s unemployment rate has coincided with a 26.5 percent increase in working-aged blacks (16 years and older) in the five-county metro area since 2009. Over that period, the number of working-aged blacks has increased by 10,919 to 52,079. Of that total, 64.7 percent participated in the area’s labor force in 2016, compared to 62.9 percent in 2009.
The Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA’s black unemployment rate has consistently been below the nation’s rate. However, the area’s rate has traditionally been higher than the state’s average, which is largely influenced by the greater New York City rate.
In 2016, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA tied the New York-Newark-Jersey City MSA for the lowest black unemployment rate among the state’s 12 MSAs. In 2016, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA’s total unemployment rate (all races and ethnicities), was 6.3 percent. The rate was 5.6 percent for whites, compared to 6.4 percent five years earlier, and 9 percent for Hispanics and Latinos of any race, compared to 11.6 percent five years earlier. It is important to note that the Census Bureau measures the unemployment rate in the ACS differently than the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS), though the two surveys generally follow similar trends.1
CEG Efforts to Further Lower Minority Unemployment
Manufacturing is one of the Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA’s fastest growing sectors for black employment, increasing by 31.1 percent over the last five years, according to a CEG analysis of beginning-of-the-quarter counts from the U.S. Census Bureau’s QWI Explorer. As a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)/Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) center, CEG is working to improve this sector’s talent pipeline by doing the following:
1. Helping establish at Hudson Valley Community College a short-term, stackable credential training program that will aid unemployed or underemployed individuals in finding good-paying jobs in manufacturing;
2. Working with local manufacturers in expanding apprenticeship opportunities for select trades, under a Manufacturing Association of New York Apprenticeship Pilot Program for the Capital Region; and
3. Establishing programs and conducting outreach to provide technical services and resources to minority- and women-run businesses and low-income entrepreneurs, helping them become engaged in the Capital Region’s startup ecosystem.
CEG is also attracting talent to the Capital Region through its representation of local employers at job fairs, such as those at Fort Drum, Boston (MIT-Harvard), Pittsfield, Hartford and Worcester.
1 The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) black/African American unemployment rate is usually higher than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Current Population Survey (CPS) rate for the same demographic, which recently hit an all-time low. According to BLS, differences between the ACS and CPS statistics include “overall questionnaire differences, differing requirements in the two surveys with regard to whether an individual is actively looking for work, and differing reference periods, modes of collection, and population controls.” For example, the ACS only asks seven questions to determine labor force activity, whereas CPS asks 16.