Local business people interviewed Friday had a largely positive view of the latest job figures released by the federal Department of Labor.
Robert Harlem, president of Oneonta Block Company, a building material manufacturer, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the numbers.
“It’s a little early to get too excited,” Harlem said, but the increase appeared to be a positive sign of an improving economy. He said that with the weather improving, the hiring surge was the result of positive demand that could lead to more hiring.
But Harlem added that when he looks into the numbers, he sees concern from the number of people dropping out of the labor force. While his business has improved in the past week, there are not too many projects in the local market, he said, adding that he would have liked to have seen some wage increases and a longer work week.
Tom Armao, partner at Country Club Automotive Group, said the local labor market appears pretty static.
“We are pretty steady,” but that is typical for this area where there are not a lot of labor swings.
New York State Department of Labor statistics show that the unemployment rate in Otsego County dropped to 6.8 percent from 7.6 percent in February, with the addition of 200 jobs and 100 fewer people in the labor force.
In Delaware County, the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent in February to 7.6 percent in March. There were 100 jobs added, while the labor force remained stable from a month ago at 20,600.
In Chenango County, there were 200 more people in the 24,600 labor force, and 200 more people employed. The unemployment rate fell 7.1 percent, from February’s rate of 7.7 percent.
Otsego County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Barbara Ann Heegan said: “I feel things are improving.”
Heegan said she’s seeing more business activity, which should lead to more employment in the future as people want to develop business plans and connect with others in business.
In Delaware County, Industrial Development Agency Chairman James Thomson also said he was optimistic. The county is mirroring the national trends, he said.
“I am starting to hear a lot of people talking of expansion, or developing business plans,” he said.
While it may not translate into jobs today, “our area is coming back to life,” he said. “I think things are starting to look better.”