BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Statistics show jobs are slowly starting to come back across New York State as reopening continues. According to recent data released by the New York State Department of Labor, last month saw the return of more than 137,000 private sector jobs or just above 2%. But there is still a long way to go as COVID-19 wiped out more than 1.6 million jobs statewide.
“We’ve never seen an economy have a collapse like we have seen under COVID,” Fred Floss, Chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at Buffalo State, said in a Zoom interview Monday evening.
In the past year, the Buffalo-Niagara metro area saw a 21% decline in private sector jobs. The Western New York region, which the state classifies as Niagara, Erie, Cattaraugus, Allegany and Chautauqua Counties, declined slightly less at 20.6%.
“I think Western New York fared a little bit worse than other places because we’re so dependent on hospitality and leisure,” Floss said.
The hospitality and leisure sector lost 39,400 jobs in May 2020, according to the Department of Labor, as attractions like Niagara Falls remain closed down. Floss added the loss of jobs in this sector impacts countless other areas of the local economy from retail to transportation.
“The reality is that we’ve lost about 56% of our hospitality and leisure jobs. That’s where most of our jobs had been lost,” Floss said.
As reopening continues and consumer confidence builds, Floss predicts the hospitality and leisure sector will rebound. It is job losses in sectors like transportation that worried Floss.
“Will people when we come back, will those jobs come back or not?” he questioned.
Pre-pandemic, economists were predicting a recession in the near future. Now, Floss said it only hinders the job market.
“We sort of have a double-barreled recession. We have a COVID recession and then we have a normal financial, economic recession that we normally see. We got to fight both of those and they’re going to take a long time to get out of,” Floss said.
For the economics expert, the bigger issues lie in Washington as talks of providing federal dollars to help localities recover continue.
“If we don’t see that the federal money coming into the state and into our localities we’re seeing cuts to our economy probably in the range of about 25-30% more than what we have now,” Floss said.
What happens next, Floss said, depends on what the community does.
“We’re a growing, vibrant economy. We should take this as a minor setback. We should use it as a time to ask questions of how do we want to look in 10 years? What kind of jobs do we want to bring in? If we have real estate that is going to be relatively cheap, how do we find tenants for that that make sense for having Western New York grow? And that's a question that everybody has to have a part of the answer to...Everybody needs to be part of this discussion," Floss said.