The Central New York economy is starting to rebound from the Great Recession thanks to a wealth of locally educated young adults, a technically experienced workforce and a relatively low cost of living, according to a profile of the region released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The report, however, noted many communities are still hampered by poverty, unemployment rates above the statewide average and the loss of some large employers.
“Central New York’s post-recession economy is in transition,” DiNapoli said. “Although many of the region’s longtime manufacturing jobs have disappeared, the health care, professional and technical services industries are gaining strength. Moving forward, it will be vital for local economic development strategies to build upon the region’s education, transportation and natural resource advantages in order to cultivate new jobs and attract new businesses.”
Five counties make up the Central New York region – Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego. The area includes Syracuse, one of the state’s largest cities, as well as other five other cities and several rural and suburban centers.
Central New York’s estimated population was 787,240 in 2015, concentrated in Onondaga County (468,463). While the region’s population has been largely stable, it has experienced a slight decline (estimated 0.6 percent) in the past five years.
Median household income in each of the five counties is below the state median of $58,687. However, the lower income levels are offset by the relatively low cost of living, including lower-than-average housing costs, making Central New York among the more affordable places to live. For example, less than 30 percent of homeowners spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, compared with 39 percent statewide.
The largest employment sector in the region is government, with over 61,000 employees, or 18 percent, of total employment working in the public sector. This includes public school teachers and administrators, firefighters, police and corrections officers, and the employees of the State University of New York (SUNY) at the Upstate Medical University, the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the four-year SUNY colleges in Cortland and Oswego, and two community colleges.
While the percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees or higher is relatively low, Syracuse University and the region’s public higher education institutions award nearly 10,000 degrees annually. Local leaders are working to find ways to retain more of these graduates.
The manufacturing sector in the region has been shrinking for decades, with employment falling from 58,000 to 30,000 between 1990 and 2015. However, certain segments of the sector are doing better and have either recently grown or are poised to do so in the next few years. Electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing grew by over 46 percent between 2009 and 2014, and these jobs tend to be well paid.
Food manufacturing operations (milk, yogurt, cheese, fruit and vegetable products) have also been locating or expanding in the region, and employment is projected to grow in this sector.
The region is well-positioned for truck transportation, warehousing facilities and distribution centers as the geographic center of the state, which includes the intersection of the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) and Interstate 81. In addition, Central New York’s public and private colleges and universities are expected to help the professional, scientific and technical services sector continue to grow.
Updating the area’s extensive infrastructure, which served this economy well for many decades, is part of the Central New York’s overall revitalization plan. Local and state officials have made upgrading the region’s highways and water systems a major priority.
DiNapoli’s report also notes:
- Annual regional unemployment rates have been improving in recent years, decreasing from 8.5 percent in 2012 to 5.5 percent in 2015.
- Syracuse University functions as both a major employer and – with its student body of over 21,000 – a major consumer of good and services.
- The region’s rate of bank foreclosures is less than the statewide rate: only 0.8 percent of the housing units were in foreclosure in 2015 compared to 1.1 percent for the entire state.
For access to state and local government spending and more than 50,000 state contracts, visit www.openbooknewyork.com. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.