SYRACUSE — A “wealth” of locally educated young adults, a “technically experienced” workforce, and a “relatively low” cost of living have the Central New York economy “starting to rebound” from the Great Recession.
At the same time, poverty, unemployment rates above the statewide average, and the loss of some large employers still hamper “many communities.”
Those are among the findings of a region profile that New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released Nov. 2 at Syracuse City Hall.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner joined the state comptroller as he issued the report.
The Central New York report is the second in a series that DiNapoli’s office is assembling for each of New York’s regions, DiNapoli said in his remarks at City Hall.
“My office has closely paid attention to the economic health of the regions around the state, certainly in the aftermath of the Great Recession. We do this because the economic health of our regions impacts … the revenue that comes to the state … a very important part of our planning when we talk about state budget … While downstate New York, especially New York City has recovered and added jobs since the depths of the Great Recession, we know that not all parts of the state have shared in those same economic gains. Central New York’s economy is continuing to recover from the Great Recession,” DiNapoli said.
In her comments to local reporters, Miner said, “This report enumerates that there are certain members in our community that are making progress on a number of fronts, including steady population and growth in our downtown and our major economic-development drivers of health care and education. But this report also highlights the “pervasive and pernicious” poverty, which plagues so much of our community and the city, in particular.”
Five counties make up the Central New York region, including Onondaga, Oswego, Cayuga, Cortland, and Madison.
The report found that the annual regional unemployment rates have been improving in recent years, decreasing from 8.5 percent in 2012 to 5.5 percent in 2015. The figures compare to a statewide jobless rate of 5.3 percent in 2015.
Central New York’s estimated population was 787,240 in 2015, including 468,463 people living in Onondaga County. The region’s population has been “largely stable,” but it has had a “slight” decline, estimated at 0.6 percent, in the past five years, DiNapoli’s office said.
Median household income in each of the five counties is below the state median of $58,687. However, the “relatively low” cost of living offsets the lower-income levels.
That includes “lower-than-average” housing costs, making Central New York among the “more affordable” places to live.
For example, less than 30 percent of homeowners spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, compared with 39 percent statewide.
The percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees or higher is “relatively low,” but Syracuse University and the region’s public higher-education institutions award nearly 10,000 degrees annually. Local leaders are working to find ways to retain more of these graduates, according to DiNapoli’s.
In addition, Central New York’s public and private colleges and universities “are expected to help the professional, scientific and technical-services sector continue to grow.”
The manufacturing industry in the region has been “shrinking for decades,” with employment falling from 58,000 to 30,000 between 1990 and 2015.
However, certain segments of manufacturing are doing better and have either “recently grown or are poised to do so” in the next few years.
Electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing grew more than 46 percent between 2009 and 2014, and these jobs “tend to be well paid.”
Food-manufacturing operations that focus on milk, yogurt, cheese, fruit and vegetable products have also been locating or expanding in the region, and employment is projected to grow in this sector, DiNapoli’s office said.
The region is “well-positioned” for truck transportation, warehousing facilities, and distribution centers as the “geographic center” of the state, which includes the intersection of the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) and Interstate 81.
Updating the area’s “extensive” infrastructure, which “served this economy well for many decades,” is part of the Central New York’s overall revitalization plan. Local and state officials have made upgrading the region’s highways and water systems “a major priority.”
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