Economy: Taking good with the bad
It is certainly good news that Chautauqua County is finally seeing some consistent job growth.
State Labor Department statistics show 400 more people employed in April 2019 than were employed in April 2018. The trend actually started back in October with employment growth ranging from between 200 to 900 more people working in the county depending on the month. Chautauqua County’s unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in April 2019, a full percentage point lower than April 2018 and a far cry from the 9.1 percent unemployment in April 2010. The number of unemployed has ticked down to 2,300 from 3,000 in January.
Things are trending in a good direction, but no one should be satisfied yet.
U.S. Census Bureau statistics show median earnings for workers of $26,059, according to the 2017 American Community Survey. Median earnings for workers in 2010 were $23,699, or a growth of about 1.42 percent a year. How many county residents have seen their bills increase by only 1.4 percent each year? The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, has stated wages would need to increase between 3.5 and 4 percent for average workers to feel an impact.
In 2010, 13.7 percent of the county’s households had received food stamps/SNAP benefits over the previous 12 months. That number was 18.9 percent in 2017. And, poverty remains a problem in the county — 18.5 percent of the county was under the poverty line in 2017 compared with 17.1 percent in 2010.
It’s a positive that Chautauqua County has seen job growth, but it still has a long way to go before its residents are earning the types of wages that allow them to live comfortably.