BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) At first glance, things seem to be turning around in Buffalo. Unemployment is lower than it has been in decades. The waterfront is growing by the day, and home prices are much stronger than they used to be.
“We are doing a lot better compared to ourselves,” said Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. But compared to the other 52 metropolitan areas with at least a million people, the Wall Street Journal ranks Buffalo’s job market as the second worst.
In the March article about the hottest and coldest job markets in the nation, the only region that ranked worse than Buffalo was Rochester when it came to Labor force growth, wage growth and job growth. “I was not surprised that two of the three worst were upstate NY. I think we spend a lot of time talking about the business climate here,” said Gallagher.
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership which represents over 1500 businesses in Western New York. “Sixty-one percent of our members hired new employees last year and continue to intend to, but for the first time last year, our members say their number one concern is workforce, finding the right talent.”
“We’re not the city in the country which leads in the layoffs and the loss of jobs anymore,” said Bill Ganley, professor emeritus of economics at Buffalo State College, who is not surprised that places like Austin,Texas and San Jose, California rank among the top, because their population is growing faster than Buffalo’s.
Ganley notes that, despite a local drop in heavy manufacturing jobs, there are several other career opportunities in Western New York. “I think if you’re in the economics world, the banking world, the finance world, there are jobs out there. I think in hospitality, there’s new hotels, there’s new breweries opening up.”
There are plenty of openings for truck drivers, welders, and virtually anything in the medical field according to Demone Smith, executive director of the Buffalo Employment and Training Center. “When we moved away from vocational training, it created a gap and so now you need the welders. I get calls every day for auto mechanics, don’t have enough people to fill the jobs.”
The Buffalo Employment and Training Center is designed to help the unemployed or underemployed find work. George Harris is a chef who can’t stay on his feet all day anymore so he’s taking computer training at BEDC. “A lot of the jobs that they’re bringing here, people aren’t trained for it. So you go fill out for a job and they say you aren’t qualified. We need more training centers like this one,” said Harris.
Gallagher, from the Partnership, sees a growing skills gap. “We have a tremendous issue here. We’ve got people here who need work and we have employers that have jobs and the skills gap is huge. “Ultimately, if we do not address the real structural problems in our economy of excessive taxes and regulation, we can never really grow this economy. We’ll be lucky to hang on to what we’ve got.”
In a survey of all the employers belonging to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the number one concern is the difficulty finding and retaining qualified talent.