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As unemployment rate drops, companies still struggling to hire

The unemployment rate in New York State was 7 percent in May of 2021. This year, it dropped to 4.1 percent.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Companies around the United States and here in Buffalo are still trying to hire the employees they need, despite more people returning to work.  

According to the New York State Department of Labor, last May the unemployment rate was 7 percent. This May, it dropped to 4.1 percent.

Across the nation, it's at 3.6 percent.

As the labor shortage continues, more than 60 companies looked to fill more than 2,000 open positions at a job fair over at the Northland Training Center on Thursday. 

Among them was Durham Staffing, which helps businesses to fill both temporary and permanent positions. 

"It's slowly been picking up, but it's nothing near before the pandemic," branch manager Jaime O'Brien said. 

That's the same trend the New York State Department of Labor is reporting. 

According to the state DOL, last month the number of New Yorkers unemployed dropped from more than 422,000 to more than 414,000. 

Still, more companies like Durham Staffing are having to put in extra work to fill positions and ask, where are all the workers? 

"I honestly don't know. You can ask every agency here today, and we just don't know," O'Brien said. 

Neel Rao, an economics professor at the University at Buffalo, says the labor shortage drags on because of accelerated retirements during the pandemic, more people wanting remote positions, low staff quitting from burnout, and inflation. 

"You have unemployed people searching for jobs, but you have employed people who want to search for a job because inflation is high. They're looking to get a pay raise to keep up with the rising cost of living," Rao said. 

And those no longer using unemployment benefits are now relying on other means.

"People accumulated a lot of savings during the pandemic, so they're spending some of that down. Then house prices went up, so that's good for homeowners. They have a lot of home equity they can tap into," Rao said.

Even with a crowd showing up to job fairs like the one at the Northland Training Center, some say employers will need to adapt. 

"This is the employees market, not the employer's market, and the employers should act like that," NYS Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said. 

If you're looking for a job, the 716 Job Fair is being held over at the Boulevard Mall on June 21.

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