The Hudson Valley regional job market is still a favorable one for those seeking jobs, as the economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now, job seekers have the advantage, because employers are looking for them,” said Sharon Williams, director of employment and training for the Workforce Development Board for Ulster County.
“Travel along any main road — Route 9 in Dutchess County, Route 300 in Orange and Ulster counties — and there are ‘help wanted’ signs everywhere,” she added.
Both employers and potential employees seem to be approaching their respective searches with confidence and enthusiasm.
“We have a lot of opening,” said Regina Thomas, executive director of talent acquisition at Regeneron, a biotechnology company based in Tarrytown.
She said candidates are holding more job offers than in the past, though.
“This year in particular it’s been really tough,” Thomas said. “It’s been a very, very competitive market. Our acceptance rate has gone down a little bit.”
Katherine Meyer, who recently graduated from Iona College in New Rochelle, where she studied business management and marketing, just started a job at NBCUniversal, which she was able to secure through the help of an Iona alum.
“A lot of professors and people in the job market were saying this is the time for young professionals, and I definitely felt that,” Meyer said.
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Alison Carson, who oversees Manhattanville College’s Center for Career Development in Purchase, said recent graduates have been successful searching for jobs.
“It is an uncertain time out there, though, in the wake of COVID,” Carson said. “Work can be remote, students can live in completely different states or even countries, from their jobs. We all know gas prices are rising. All of these things can be uncertain and anxiety-provoking for our students.”
For STEM graduates who studied science, technology, engineering or math, opportunities are plentiful right now, said Mark Weinstock, an economics professor at Pace University.
“I’ve never seen a better job market in my life,” he said. “In terms of internships and jobs, if you cannot get one now, you’re dead from the neck up. The salaries are hitting highs that I never thought I would see in the foreseeable future.”
Orange County’s most recent job fair, held earlier this month at the Galleria at Crystal Run in Middletown, attracted more than 80 employers and probably close to 250 job seekers, according to Stephen Knob, the county’s employment and training director.
“In the current environment that’s pretty good,” Knob said.
To help get positions filled, especially entry-level jobs, Knob said some employers are lowering or loosening their standards on things such as how much education is required.
That is helping pave the path to employment for groups who historically have experienced obstacles to getting a job, including those who have served time in prison, and those with disabilities.
All sectors of the Southeastern New York region saw significant growth in their employment during the 12-month period ending February 2022, according to Johny Nelson, a state Labor Department market analyst.
The largest private sector job growth was in Ulster County, officially known as the Kingston metropolitan statistical area. Employment there grew by 7.8% year to year.
The second-fastest growth was in Sullivan County, where employment grew by 4.9%. The Dutchess-Putnam area was up 4.4%, and the Orange-Rockland-Westchester labor market was just behind at 4.3%.
Nelson said seven of nine job sectors saw increases in the number of jobs available, with the greatest number, 14,400, coming in leisure and hospitality, which was one of the areas hit the hardest when the pandemic forced many businesses considered non-essential to shut down.
That was followed by 6,200 added trade, transportation and utilities jobs; 4,400 added jobs in other services; 4,000 added professional and business services jobs; 2,000 jobs added in natural resources, mining and construction; 1,800 additional manufacturing jobs; and 1,000 jobs in the information field.
The only sectors to lose jobs were educational and health services, down by 600, and financial services, down 200, according to Nelson.
Westchester Medical Center Health Network, which has facilities throughout the Hudson Valley, is growing, though, with opening around the region, said Kelly Soldano, the network’s vice president of human resources operations. That includes building a new pediatric inpatient unit at MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie and planning a “reimagined” HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston.
With that growth comes more job opportunities, Soldano said, and “we are getting qualified applicants, we are getting people that are applying, so that’s always a good sign for the job market.”
The overall increase in available jobs in the region is leading to significant declines in the unemployment rate across the region. From April 2021 to April 2022, the Hudson Valley’s overall unemployment rate fell to 2.9% from 5.1%.
Broken down by county, the year-to-year numbers are as follows: Dutchess County, down to 2.8% from 4.8%; Orange County, down to 3% from 5.1%; Putnam County, down to 2.7% from 4.5%; Rockland County, down to 2.6% from 4.7%; Sullivan County, down to 3.1% from 5.4%; Ulster County, down to 2.9% from 5%; and Westchester County, down to 3% from 5.3%.
While the Labor Department numbers showed growth in the number of jobs available in the leisure and hospitality field, Loreen J. Gebelein, director of Sullivan County’s Center for Workforce Development, said many hotels, restaurants and other businesses are still having difficulty filling those positions.
And that, in turn, “takes a toll on the people who continue to work,” Gebelein said, because they are forced to put in large numbers of hours.
The shortage of available labor in the leisure and hospitality industry has been felt across the region, from Sullivan County to Westchester County. Reasons given for the continuing shortage have ranged from workers not yet ready to return to working indoors, to their taking jobs in other fields during the long shutdown.
Gebelein noted something else has changed since the start of the pandemic which might have an impact on the job market: the current state of the economy.
With gas prices going through the roof, and inflation at a 40-year high, Gebelein said job seekers might find themselves considering how far a potential job is from their home when deciding whether to take it.
Gebelein said some are likely asking themselves: “Is the money I’m going to be making going to be enough to pay all the bills?”
Knob noted there is one coming development that has not yet made its impact on the job market but soon will: the youngest members of the Baby Boomer generation are approaching retirement age.
And when that happens, and all the boomers have retired, the impact will be huge, he said.
“We do not have the population numbers (in the succeeding generations) to fill those jobs,” Knob said.
Mike Randall covers breaking news for the Times Herald-Record, the Poughkeepsie Journal and the Journal News/lohud. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @MikeRandall845