Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties face the issues of poverty and stagnant or decreasing population growth rate. It is also worthwhile to examine the unemployment figures for these two counties.
According to the 2003 Census, Cattaraugus ranks 53rd and Allegany ranks 57th of the 63 counties in New York State’s poverty statistics. We are definitely at the bottom 20% of this list.
From 1990 to 2005, Allegany County increased its population by 132 (50,470 to 50,602), a +0.26% increase. Cattaraugus County decreased its population level by 1732 (84,234 to 82,502), a -2.06% decrease.
Our unemployment numbers have risen; however, they are still at low levels. From 2000 to 2005, Allegany County went from 4.9% to 5.6%; Cattaraugus County went from 4.5% to 5.5%.
I’d like you to think about all of these figures for a moment. With our state poverty rankings so high, what type of jobs do our workers have? Are they earning the minimum wage, let alone a living wage?
We also need to define what qualifies the definition of employed/ unemployed. And for fun, let’s throw in the definition of the term, “unemployment rate”. It is defined as: “A Department of Labor measure of the ratio of the number of unemployed people in the labor force, expressed as a percentage”.
If you lost your 40 hour/week job, but were paid for the 1 hour/week you spent mowing a lawn, you are counted as employed. If you lost your job, had no work and “made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week”, you are counted as unemployed. If you have become discouraged or have given up looking for work, you are not considered unemployed or even in the labor force. You are not counted in the statistical analysis.
I really wonder what our true unemployment figures are when you take into account those who have given up looking for work due to lack of available jobs. And, how many others who are counted as “employed” fall into the “1 to 39 hours a week” category?
Can someone enlighten me as to why our poverty rankings are so high, but our unemployment rates are low? Perhaps it would help if we had an influx of higher-paying jobs versus minimum wage, service and retail industry jobs available for our workers.