While economic growth in the mid-Hudson region has been relatively strong, high costs of living and doing business could slow things down.
That’s according to an economic profile of the region released July 20 by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The report for the region — populated by 2.3 million people in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster and Sullivan counties — found that annual unemployment rates have dropped from 7.6 percent in 2012 to 4.7 percent in 2015. Preliminary data found unemployment was down to 3.8 percent by May 2016, according to the report.
“The economy of the mid-Hudson region is strong and is being boosted by the post-recession economic growth in New York City,” DiNapoli said in a press release accompanying the report. “Unemployment rates have dropped and local industry is growing, particularly service-based companies. Going forward, the region needs to carefully manage its ongoing need for services and infrastructure improvements given the already high cost of living.”
Mid-Hudson employers paid an average annual wage of $56,647, higher than any region in the state outside of New York City, according to the report.
The report found that while Westchester County employers may pay overall higher wages then the rest of the state, the cost of living is significantly higher. Median home values in Westchester are nearly twice those statewide, while median household income is more than 40 percent higher, according to the report.
Westchester’s 4.6 percent unemployment rate was in the middle of the pack of the mid-Hudson counties in 2015. Putnam’s 4.3 percent unemployment was the lowest rate, while the more rural Sullivan County had the highest unemployment rate in the region at 5.5 percent.
Among cities in the region, White Plains had the lowest unemployment rate in 2015 at 3.8 percent, while Newburgh and Mount Vernon both had the highest at just above 6 percent.
The health care and social assistance industry employs the highest number of people in the region, followed by government and retail trade. The number of construction jobs grew 12 percent between 2014 and the third quarter of 2015, continuing a recovery from the Great Recession. The report predicted continued growth in this sector, citing projects such as the new Tappan Zee Bridge project and a Monticello-area casino.
Also growing were transportation and warehousing. While the report stated that the sector is not “particularly large nor high-paying currently,” jobs have been fast growing, particularly in Orange County, which has easy access to several major highways. Warehousing and storage, a subsector of transportation and warehousing, grew 45 percent between 2009 and 2014, according to the report.
Population in the region grew 5.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, outpacing statewide growth of 2.1 percent. While DiNapoli’s report said the region’s strengths, such as its proximity to New York City, extensive infrastructure and an educated, population will help it continue to grow, he cautioned there was still work to be done.
“The region has a number of challenges that will have to be addressed in the process,” DiNapoli wrote in the report. “Many of its water and wastewater systems are aging, and energy issues remain important topics of debate, as do increasing pressures on transportation systems.”
The report cited a recent survey of mid-Hudson region officials that indicated they have transportation concerns, such as maintenance of local roads and bridges. The report also found water infrastructure to be a major concern for the region as populations continue to grow, particularly in Rockland and Orange counties.
“Moving ahead, the region’s infrastructure challenges include funding for upgrading and expanding existing assets while achieving the desired balance between economic growth and quality of life,” the report concluded.
View a full version of the report here: