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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, February 3, 2011
How accurate are numbers on low jobless rate in Guilderland?
By Anne Hayden
The town of Guilderland has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the state, but the New York State Department of Labor cautions against putting too much stock in the statistics.
“The numbers are not thought to be very accurate,” according to James Ross, the Capital Region labor market analyst for the department.
The Albany County unemployment rates caught the attention of Chris Churchill, business reporter for the Times Union, the Hearst daily covering the Capital Region. A five-column headline on his story, “Region’s towns do well in jobless study,” was at the top of the business section last Tuesday.
“The number-one spot was held by none other than our own Guilderland!” writes Kathy Burbank, executive director of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce in a letter to the Enterprise editor this week. She goes on, “The effort of the Guilderland community in entirety deserves a pat on the back for this achievement.”
Churchill told The Enterprise this week that he regularly looks at the numbers, which are posted monthly on the department of labor’s website.
“I look at them and try to find different story angles,” said Churchill yesterday. He wrote a story for the Times Union on Jan. 25, highlighting the relatively low unemployment rates of local suburban areas, compared to the rest of the state.
According to the department of labor website, Guilderland had a 5-percent rate of unemployment as of December 2010. The average unemployment rate in New York State is roughly 10 percent.
However, the methodology used to collect the data is “not that good,” according to Ross. It is based on the relationship between the 2000 census, county unemployment rates, and town population.
“It doesn’t take into account what economic changes have occurred since 2000,” Ross said. According to the website statistics, Guilderland has 18,300 employed, and 1,000 unemployed.
“We do caution people against using the data,” said Ross.
The figures for a year earlier, December 2009, showed Guilderland with a rate of 4.9 percent, having 18,600 employed and the same 1,000 unemployed.
Churchill said the catalyst behind his Jan. 25 story was one written by The Business Review. The Review, one of two score similar publications owned by American City Business Journals, posted a Jan. 24 story, by G. Scott Thomas, noting Niagara Falls had the highest unemployment rate of any municipality in the state and Guilderland had the lowest, with a link to the entire list.
“We try not to let them cover anything we don’t cover,” said Churchill of The Business Review. He said he tried to explain in his story that the numbers did not reflect real-time data, but he “wasn’t sure everyone got it.”
He concluded, “We tried not to give the story too much play.”
Guilderland Supervisor Kenneth Runion agreed that the numbers shouldn’t receive too much attention.
“If the numbers aren’t accurate, why even print them?” Runion wondered. He also pointed out that employed residents living in Guilderland don’t necessarily work within the town.
“Our low unemployment rate could just be the luck of the draw, based on the town that people working in the county decided to live in,” said Runion. Ross confirmed that.
“Albany County has a consistently low unemployment rate compared to the rest of the state, due to the industry mix the large government sector, education center, and healthcare center,” Ross said.
“In the end, 5 percent of our residents are still seeking jobs and not finding them,” concluded Runion. “And that’s not good.”