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WSJ deems Rochester worst job market for city of its size

Charles Molineaux
Updated: February 26, 2020 07:12 PM
Created: February 26, 2020 07:05 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester business and city leaders declared the area’s job outlook better than the gloomy depiction in a new round of job numbers.

The latest research by The Wall Street Journal puts the Rochester area job market at dead last among America's 53 metro areas of more than 1 million people, with a workforce participation rate barely over 60% and a job growth rate just over 0.5%.

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The local job picture was a prominent issue for job seekers like RIT student Devin Mochrie of Chili, who spoke with possible employers at the RIT job fair on Wednesday. 

"It's obviously nerve-wracking,” he said. "I feel ambitious about what I can do in Rochester.”  

While confident his studies in web and mobile computing would secure him a job somewhere, Mochrie had his doubts about whether he could find a job near his home in Chili.  

“The job market is better elsewhere,” he admitted. “I know my chances are slim but home is home and I'd like to stay where I grew up.”

The Wall Street Journal numbers came just as Visit Rochester and the city unveiled “Welcome Home 2020,” a new promotional campaign to get former Rochesterians to come home from far-flung cities like New York City or Atlanta.  

Notwithstanding the statistics, city leaders insisted after years of struggle, the local economy was full of promise.

“We know that we’ve had our challenges but our opportunities are even greater,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said. “When you think about the fact that we have a city that has attracted more than 130 creative class companies in our downtown, we have Eastman Business Park that has reinvigorated… reinvented itself, we have the lowest unemployment rate than we’ve had in about a decade, those are all positive signs.”

At the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, President Bob Duffy insisted he saw a more positive picture, backed up by solid research.  

“We tend to win the data war and lose the public relations battle,” he exclaimed.  

Duffy pointed to different numbers from M&T Bank which showed much stronger year over year job growth of 1.3%, just below the national average, with a big boost from construction.

“I think those numbers are going to keep on going up,” Duffy said. “You’re not going to see a dramatic a jump of 10% but I think that steady growth, steady methodical growth going forward, is what we expect and what we hope to see.”

Meanwhile, RIT pointed to numerous “not-so-big” companies around Rochester as adding up to a big difference in opportunity.

“The trend is really the small companies,” Maria Richart, RIT’s Director of Career Services and Cooperative Education said. “They may not hire in the volume that a Xerox or Kodak or Bausch + Laumb would hire but they are hiring our students.”

And for students who ended up in “co-op” programs, paid internships at local businesses, Richart estimated as many as 29% were likely to stay in the Rochester area with local employers, possibly smaller ones.

“They may have 200 employees,” Richart said. “But there’s 200, and another 200, and another 200. The small companies that are popping up, the start-ups, they really make the difference because they are hiring.”


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