Ithaca, N.Y. — A remarkable little chart shows both the current state of the local economy and where the job market is likely to move over the next 10 years.

The 21st Century Library Campaign – Tompkins County Public Library

[fvplayer src=”https://vimeo.com/120846728″ loop=”fale” mobile=”https://vimeo.com/120846728″]

Here it is:

The graph comes from the draft agenda of the Tompkins County Legislature’s Economic Development Committee meeting for Monday.

It was created by the Tompkins County Area Development agency, which promotes economic growth in the county, and is based off of both local jobs data and “past regional and national performance,” according to TCAD.

Five key takeaways from reading the chart (and accompanying materials):

1 — Higher ed to grow

First, the good news: TCAD expects employment in higher education to continue to grow. As shown by the chart, that’s critical because it is by far the biggest source of jobs locally.

It’s also a reversal from 2009 to 2014, when higher education contracted employment. From the TCAD report:

“During and in the wake of the recession (2009 to 2014), JobsEQ reported that Higher Education contracted their employment by 1.1% annually loosing 855 jobs over the 5 years. Higher Education employment is expected to grow at a rate of 0.7% from 2015 to 2025. Higher Education will be the greatest job-creating sector adding about 120 new jobs annually plus nearly 300 replacement hires annually.”

2 — 6 key sectors

It may be obvious to some working in local economic development, but for the uneducated journalist it’s interesting to see — with hard data — exactly how the Tompkins County economy hangs together.

From the look of it, higher education provides for five times as many jobs as the second biggest sector.

The 6 “key” industries identified in the report: 1 – Higher ed (15,700 jobs); 2 – Manufacturing (3,100 jobs); 3 – Visitors and tourism (2,300 jobs); 4 – Software/mobile/ tech (1,000 jobs) 5 – Agriculture/forestry (500 jobs); 6 – Food/beverage (400 jobs).

3 — Manufacturing moving the wrong direction

This line from the TCAD report won’t come as a surprise to anyone following national news: “Manufacturing is a moderate sized industry with above average wages facing significant global challenges to growth in the US.”

The report projects that manufacturing will fall by 1 percent annually in Tompkins County by 2024. (Note that this is not 1 percent by 2024, but 1 percent each year until 2024.)

From 2008 to 2013, the county lost 31 manufacturing jobs — an annual rate of 1 percent — compared to a US rate of 1% and NY rate of 2.3% annually.

4 — Tech in Tompkins hasn’t actually been growing that fast

The chart suggests that local tech growth could occur at a high clip of 2 percent annually. TCAD thus calls this sector a “gazelle industry — relatively small but growing quickly.”

Local tech is critical because the average wage, as the chart demonstrates, is substantially higher than in other industries. But while local tech is predicted to be a bright spot, it actually hasn’t been growing as fast here as it is elsewhere.

According to TCAD:

“From 2009 to 2014 the number of (tech) establishments grew from 81 to 86. Employment grew at about 1.7% or 20 jobs per year.

While these figures are very positive compared to overall wages and growth in Tompkins County, the US experienced 2.8% employment growth of these industries and New York 3.8% growth.

5 — The next ‘gazelle’

Tech is already being considered a “gazelle,” but it may soon not be alone in earning that designation.

The report says that the county’s food and beverage sector could achieve “gazelle” status if its current growth continues.

That field has already shown tremendous growth: at a rate of 7.5 percent from 2009 to 2014, according to the report.

The report adds:

“This was impressive growth for a relatively small sector with about 400 jobs in 2014. This compares to 1.6% growth rate for New York State and 0.4% for the US. The sector also grew from 20 to 24 establishments. Growth was supported by the regional strength of the alcoholic beverage industry: wineries, distilleries and breweries.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.