Job Creation: No Time For Autopilot

Chautauqua County has seen its share of positive economic news in the past year or so.

New Flyer has come to Jamestown, Fieldbrook Farms is expanding in Dunkirk, Castelli Cheese is working on expansion plans in Ashville and Athenex is building a facility in the north county. Wind power projects are happening in the middle of the county. The county’s average unemployment rate in 2016 was 5.8 percent; a good number considering the unemployment rate was as high as 8.9 percent in 2010 at the peak of the last recession. County officials have set a goal of bringing unemployment down even further this year to 5.5 percent.

Much hard work has gone into those success stories. Kevin Sanvidge, county IDA chief executive officer and administrative director, couldn’t have been more right when he told The Post-Journal recently, “You can’t turn this big ship overnight.”

Raw unemployment rate numbers can be misleading because they don’t take into account people who have given up looking for work or who, perhaps through disability, cannot hold jobs. The county’s labor force is at an all-time low, ending December at 56,000 people and averaged about 100 fewer people in the labor force than the 57,900 the county had in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The number of people employed, at 52,700 at the end of December, is also the lowest the county has seen in the past 26 years. The average number of unemployed in Chautauqua County decreased from 2015 to 2016 from 3,400 to roughly 3,240 a month.

There are good things happening in Chautauqua County. Now is not the time to be complacent. This big ship still has a lot of turning to do before it can safely go on autopilot.