Editor’s Note: This story was written by new Ithaca Voice writer Jason Tillberg, a Newfield resident who also blogs for the financial site “Seeking Alpha.”
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ITHACA, N.Y. — Tompkins County’s economy may well be off to a rough start in 2015.
Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of July 2015, the preliminary estimate of total nonfarm employees in Tompkins County was 68.9 thousand jobs.
Below is a chart of total nonfarm employees since 2008 (seasonally adjusted). As you can see, there have been some declines of late in total jobs in our area. We’ve been losing jobs since mid 2014 after peaking at 70.8 thousand in December of 2013.
For a year-over-year perspective, you can see more clearly the rough start to 2015 from the graph below. It shows fairly steep declines in total nonfarm employees in 2015 after several years of mostly strong growth.
Looking under the hood of the jobs numbers alone, we can see two other details about the job situation in Tompkins County. (Unfortunately, it gets worse.)
Hours worked falling
First, again, per BLS, the average weekly hours worked for all private sector jobs have been falling in our area. Average weekly hours peaked in April of 2012 at 37 hours. In July of 2015, average weekly hours worked has fallen to just 32.5 hours.
Fall in hourly average earnings
Average hourly earnings in private sector jobs have also been declining. After peaking in January of 2014 at $27.40 per hour, average hourly earnings in Tompkins County are down to $24.40 as of July of 2015.
What I consider the most important jobs number to pay attention to is the average weekly earning. Since both average weekly hours are falling and average hourly earnings, this is proving to be a double whammy on our local employees paychecks.
Average weekly earnings in July were reported as $792.10. This is down from peaking in January of 2014 at $966.50.
From a year-over year-perspective on average weekly earnings, July was a particularly tough month as average weekly earnings were down 12.85% from a year ago.
Ithaca’s economy did very well from 2011-2014. Average weekly earnings shot higher than the national average. But the decline we’ve been seeing since January of 2014 now puts Ithaca and Tompkins County’s average weekly earnings below the national average.
This data all come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is likely to be some degree of margin of error; however, the major trends are far more likely to be accurate.
At a minimum, we should have low expectations for growth in our local economy for 2015.
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