Private sector employment in the Southern Tier increased over the year by 500, or 0.2 percent, to 233,600 in July 2014. Job gains were largest in education and health services (+700), natural resources, mining and construction (+400) and leisure and hospitality (+400). Job losses were centered in manufacturing (-700), financial activities (-200) and trade, transportation and utilities (-200). Government employment declined (-100) over the year.
By Christian Harris, Labor Market Analyst, Southern Tier
(Excerpted from the May 2014 issue of the Employment in New York State newsletter)
Colleges and universities are a major economic force in the Southern Tier. Higher education has taken on a more prominent role in the economy as we face intense competition in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy. Moreover, most jobs today require some sort of post-high school education or training. Higher education plays a number of critical economic roles, including:
The Southern Tier region is home to several internationally recognized universities, as well as a number of community colleges and training providers who offer instruction in a broad range of technical fields. Higher education is an important source of employment in the region. In 2013, public and private colleges and universities accounted for 22,400 jobs in the Southern Tier, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. More than 85% of regional jobs in higher education are found at colleges, universities and professional schools. Another 12% of jobs are located at community colleges. Altogether, higher education provides 8.2% of total jobs in the region.
Of the eight counties in the Southern Tier, higher education is most important economically to Tompkins County, home to Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College. Higher education accounts for more than 30% of all jobs in Tompkins County. A recent Department of Labor analysis found that Cornell is one of the 10 largest private sector employers in the state. The university’s statutory units are also a significant source of public sector jobs in Tompkins County.
The economic importance of higher education to the Southern Tier is even more accentuated by its wage impact. In 2013, the industry paid out more than $1.12 billion in total wages, or 10.3% of the region’s total. Colleges and universities posted an average wage of $50,100 in 2013, which was more than 20% above that of all industries ($41,300) in the region.
Higher education services produced in the Southern Tier are often purchased by students from outside the local area. As a result, this industry is an important source of regional exports. Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI) estimates that regional exports by the Southern Tier’s higher education industry topped $2 billion in 2013. These exports, in turn, generate additional economic activity in the Southern Tier regional economy. The concentration of public and private higher education jobs in the region is more than four times greater than in the nation as a whole.
Institutions of higher education also purchase a variety of goods and services to support their academic, research and public service programs. Due to the “multiplier effect,” the economic activity generated by the region’s colleges and universities circulates many times throughout the local economy. This, in turn, creates jobs in industries throughout the region, including many outside of higher education. A university, for example, may purchase new computers or hire a food service company to operate their dining hall. Each new higher education job generates an additional 0.34 jobs in the Southern Tier, according to EMSI.
SUNY campuses in the region (including Cornell) are poised to grow further with the launch of the START-UP NY economic development program. In exchange for establishing working partnerships with universities, participating businesses are eligible for 10 years in university-designated tax-free zones. Business activities are required to align with an aspect of the university’s academic mission. According to published reports, Chroma NanoTech, a high-tech spin-off from Binghamton University (BU), will be one of the first firms to benefit from the new initiative. The company, which makes plastics-enhancing materials, will be given office and lab space on the BU campus.
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