For months, we’ve seen headlines proclaiming Rochester is leading the state in job growth. Today, another one came our way, telling us Rochester has gained back 98 percent of the jobs lost during the recession. Our region’s “success” was blamed on the loss of state economic development money.
Something doesn’t feel right. Does Rochester feel like a boom town to you? Are you better off than you were a few years ago?
“No, we’re not on the top of the world,” said Kent Gardner of the Center for Governmental Research.
The state comptroller reported Rochester lost 18,500 jobs between July 2008 and December 2009. We had gained back 18,100 jobs at the end of 2011.
But Gardner says Rochester wasn’t doing so hot before the recession hit. Our peak employment was in June, 2000, when we had 538,600 jobs. In December 2011, we had 524,700.
That’s a loss of 13,900 jobs over the last decade.
And those jobs we’ve gained? They pay less. Worker wages have dropped an average of $60 a week since 2008. The median household income in Monroe County is $49,532. If it had kept pace with inflation since 2000, it would be $58,000 to $59,000.
There are reasons to be optimistic, of course. “We have real breadth of growth. It’s sustainable,” said Gardner, pointing to 2 percent growth in manufacturing jobs. Other sectors are also doing well.
I’m happy to see Rochester lead the way. But I’ll be happier when we really feel it.