During our annual Economic Forecast breakfast [on Jan. 22], we highlighted new optimism that is being felt in our community as we start this new decade. Members of the business community who contributed to this year’s Economic Forecast Report described our regional economy using words like vibrant, evolving, growing, progress, strong, robust, and diverse.
This optimism combined with statistics and other indicators, tell a new story of economic advancement for the region. Seventy-four percent of our forecasters say their 2019 was either strong or very strong, and 76 percent anticipate a strong to very strong year ahead.
When it comes to job growth, we are seeing some of the best statistics in decades. According to the NYS Department of Labor, in every month of 2019 the Syracuse MSA grew jobs over the previous year at a rate of more than 2 percent. Wages were also up 4 percent in Syracuse from November 2018 to November 2019.
This progress is also helping to drive population growth in the right direction. In fact, the city of Syracuse is unique as it saw a 0.32 percent increase in its population between 2017 and 2018, making it the only metro area in New York state to see gains. Additionally, the American Community Survey data shows a 12.8 percent growth in millennials in Onondaga County between 2010 and 2018, with the largest actual gain in the city of Syracuse, with an increase of 9.3 percent.
And while the overall rate of poverty remains far too high, the numbers are beginning to move in the right direction. Since 2012, Black and African American poverty has decreased more than 3 percent. For Hispanics and Latinos, poverty fell more than 11 percent. Furthermore, the Brookings Metro Monitor has reported major improvements in measurements of inclusion, employment rates and median earnings for people of color, while median earnings gaps and poverty rates decreased. While we must not mask the true human toll of racial and socio-economic inequality that still persists in our community, this progress, however slight, is an opportunity to reinforce the need to focus our collective and continued attention on this pressing need.
In his analytic assessment of national and regional economic trends, keynote speaker and M&T Bank Regional Economist Gary Keith stated that the strength of the overall national economy will continue through 2020. Likewise, the region’s growth is anticipated to continue, with Real GDP growth strong at about 1 percent.
These statistics create the foundation of a new and emerging narrative for our community. It’s optimism born from seeing transformative projects take shape in our community, by elected leaders aligned in their objectives, and from our collective efforts to plan and execute on economic strategies rooted in data and best practices.
As we embark on a new decade, let’s take a small moment to celebrate our progress, then turn our focus to the position we want our region to be in when we begin 2030. My economic forecast is that we will look back on this moment as the beginning of our turning point, because today’s progress can continue, even accelerate, through our collective efforts.
Robert M. (Rob) Simpson is president and CEO of CenterState CEO, the primary economic-development organization for Central New York. This viewpoint is drawn and edited from the “CEO Focus” email newsletter that the organization sent to members on Jan. 23.