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Capital region slips in economic rankings

ALBANY -- A new report surveying jobs and earnings shows the Capital Region is falling in the rankings this year compared to last.  While it may sound like bad news up front, economists say don't put all your money on it!

The Milken Institute report places the greater Capital District at the 84th of 200 large areas it surveyed.  We're still ahead of other Upstate cities, but behind New York City and Long Island.  There's one particular field of employment that may have contributed to our downgrade among best-performing cities.

It wasn't good period for anybody who had a high concentration in government jobs," said economist Hugh Johnson.

Johnson says the report looks back at trends in the Capital Region, rather than forward.  That said, the Capital Region explains in its name why it fell behind other best-performing places.  Wage growth and job growth, Johnson believes, are the primary defining characteristics of how well a city is doing.

"The growth rate of jobs and the growth rate of wages was dismal in 2011-2012 because the federal government, like the New York State government, was faced with significant fiscal deficits or problems, and they had to cut back," Johnson said.

Since this is the center, the erosion in strength was expected.  But the short-term numbers in the technology field were positive, and Johnson says the next report might look different.

"The decline in government employment for the nation as a whole and particularly in Albany has also stopped and is starting to rebound," Johnson said.  "It's not as much a drag as it was before."

Johnson recently offered his economic forecast for the year ahead.  He says it's a sunny one.  "It's headed in the right direction, so you'll see a positive outcome in my judgement over the next three to five years and beyond that," he said.

The data shows growth in certain areas specifically.

"The performance isn't going to be particularly good for Albany County, it isn't going to be particularly good for Schenectady County, but it's going to be really good for Saratoga County and Rensselaer."
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