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Economy rebounding, but not back to pre-pandemic levels

Chautauqua County gained another 1,600 jobs in the past month, according to state Labor Department statistics.

Private-sector employment increased from 44,700 jobs in April to 46,300 in May. But, that doesn’t mean Chautauqua County is back to pre-pandemic levels.

In May 2019, the last comparable year, private sector employment in Chautauqua County was 41,000 jobs compared to 36,200 in May 2021, which means the county has still lost 12% of the jobs it had before the pandemic.

The county had 8,900 manufacturing jobs in May 2019, a number that has decreased to 8,000 as of May 2021. Trade, transportation and utilities also has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, dropping from 8,500 jobs in May 2019 to 7,700 in May 2021. Education and health services, which does not include public schools, had 8,300 total jobs in May 2019 and, despite gains over the past year, has still lost 900 jobs from pre-pandemic levels.

Likewise, the leisure and hospitality industry in Chautauqua County has nearly doubled the number of jobs from May 2020 to May 2021 (2,700 to 5,100) but has yet to recover to the May 2019 level of 5,700 jobs.

Chautauqua County’s experience is similar to what is happening statewide, according to E.J. McMahon, founder and director of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

McMahon wrote in a blog post on Thursday that New York’s job loss last spring was worse than the national average (23% in New York for April 2020 compared to 15% nationally). New York has recovered about half of the jobs it lost, with McMahon noting New York is still about 825,000 jobs below its employment level in May 2019.

“This week’s lifting of most COVID-related restrictions on commercial operations and gatherings should boost New York’s growth prospects,” McMahon wrote. “However, even if the state keeps steadily adding private payroll jobs at May’s pace, private employment in New York won’t recover to the February 2020 level until April 2025. Even steady monthly employment growth at twice the May rate won’t produce a full private jobs recovery until the spring of 2023. Nationally, by contrast, continued growth at the May rate would lead to a full employment recovery by the summer of 2022. Even if all U.S. job gains slow to half the May pace, private employment nationally will be back at the pre-pandemic peak by the summer of 2023.”

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