ITHACA, N.Y. — According to just-revised job statistics, the Ithaca economy added an average of about 700 jobs in 2015, an increase of 1 percent.
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In March of each year, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) goes back and re-analyzes the last three years of data, so in this case, 2013, 2014 and 2015. The 2013 averaged employment total remained virtually unchanged at 69,400. 2014 was revised upward slightly from 69,650 to 69,700, and 2015 was revised from 69,200 to 70,400.
In other words, what had been reported as a shrinking jobs count, was actually growing. This has happened nearly every year for the past several years, and can lead to a lot of problems. Ithaca’s a small area dominated by a few major employers, the BLS employs random sampling, and it’s less about accuracy and more about applying the same standard to all areas.
If the numbers hold consistent through future revisions, the growth would be an uptick from 2014’s pace, but still slower than the job growth experienced during the early 2010s. The BLS does not distinguish between full and part time jobs, but the Ithaca economy is highly seasonal due to the academic year, ranging from a high of 73,800 jobs in April when the academic semester’s in full swing, to a low of 66,700 in January 2015, when students are on winter break (for the record, the preliminary job estimate for this January is 67,300 jobs).
One concern that will need to be closely watched is a year-to-year drop in employment that occurred from Oct-Dec 2015. It may be a sign that the local economy is starting to take a downturn, However, as with the whole year, it might just be that the data is too preliminary to make a good judgement call on.
The BLS combines Tompkins County and Cortland County into what’s called a Combined Statistical Area (CSA) when conducting their economic analyses. However, Ithaca/Tompkins County is considered a separate metropolitan area [MSA] from the Cortland micropolitan area [µSA], so population and demographic analyses are always distinct. Nearly all of the job growth is attributed to Tompkins County.
The job sector growing the most in 2015 was Education and Health Services (universities, hospitals, and so on), which added an average of 500 jobs in 2015. Education and Health Services make up 39,000 of the 70,400 local jobs in 2015, almost 65% of the local economy. Job losses were led by Government payrolls, which were down about 300 jobs in 2015.
Since 2006, the Ithaca area has added 7,600 jobs, an increase of over 12%. The growing economy, combined with greater numbers of students and retirees in the area, is one of the reasons why Ithaca has housing affordability issues – high demand in combination with limited supply.
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