By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO He may not have been the first to notice, but Legislator Alan Sorensen was the first to comment Thursday on a jarring statistic.
“One of the scary things I see,” Sorensen remarked as he perused a report at the Community and Economic Development Committee, “is historically Sullivan County has had seasonal variations in the unemployment rate.”
And that wasn’t the case in the latest unemployment figures released by the state.
Instead of taking the traditional dip inspired by the increase in tourism and thus increase in hiring in the county in the summer months, the county’s unemployment rate held relatively steady.
For August, the rate was 9.1 percent, down just slightly from July’s 9.4 percent and June’s 9.8.
The rate for each of those months was also noticeably higher than the years prior. For 2009-2011, the county’s unemployment rate had hung around 7.5-8.6 percent in June, July and August.
And there had been more of a difference between those months and their winter, spring and fall counterparts.
But for 2012, the rate has stuck close to and sometimes above 10 percent.
While that rate has climbed higher in many a past winter, state data indicates this is the highest amount of summer unemployment in at least 22 years.
“We’ve never had rates this high,” affirmed Center for Workforce Development Director Laura Quigley at Thursday’s meeting.
After the meeting, however, Quigley indicated her take on the numbers is similar to that of the state’s labor officials: that the increase is not from more unemployment but from more people rejoining the search for employment.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily due to more people losing their jobs,” she explained to the Democrat, saying the evidence does not point to a jump in job losses. “We don’t have a large increase in claims.”
With 3,300 residents listed as unemployed (not counting the underemployed or those who’ve exhausted their benefits), Sullivan County currently ranks 47th out of New York’s 62 counties, with Hamilton County doing the best (at #1) and Bronx the worst (at #62).
“It looks like the state is up [overall],” Quigley assessed.