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Employers weather the rough economic climate

By VELVET SPICER
RBJ 75
Rochester Business Journal
July 23, 2010

The area's largest businesses and organizations held their ground against myriad economic forces in the last year, with little change in employment numbers.

As a whole, the RBJ 75 public, private and non-profit employers lost 349 jobs, or 0.3 percent of the roughly 110,000 positions at the firms. Excluding Rochester's traditional Big Three-Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp. and Bausch & Lomb Inc.-the area gained nearly 1,200 jobs.

"One of the things I found to be encouraging is Rochester's shrinkage has been less than that of many other metros across the country, so relative to the kind of hit that everybody else took in this recession we've come out reasonably well," said Kent Gardner, president and chief economist of the Center for Governmental Research Inc. "It's certainly good news. It's not great news; it's just better than the alternative."

The area's top public-company employers have some 23,161 staffers, compared with 24,547 at the same companies last year. The numbers exclude GateHouse Media Inc., which did not disclose employment numbers for 2009.

The largest job losses among public companies were a 1,100-person drop at Kodak and a 306-person decline at Xerox. Kodak now employs some 7,400 people locally, while Xerox has 7,014 local staffers. Excluding the losses at Kodak and Xerox, the area's top public companies gained some 20 jobs.

The big drop in jobs at Kodak may be a result of the motion picture industry declining, Gardner said.

"I think the big question that we ask is how much longer does motion picture have? When do we move to all-digital?" he said. "When that happens, there is a pretty good lump of employees at Kodak that'll probably go away."

Twelve of the area's top public-company employers added staff in the last year, while 11 companies shed jobs.

Among public companies, Paychex Inc. reported the largest net change from 2009, adding more than 100 people. Document Security Systems Inc. reported the highest percentage growth, increasing its staff by nearly 46 percent.

In addition to job losses at Kodak and Xerox, Gannett Co. Inc. decreased its staff by 97 people, or nearly 15 percent, while Harris Interactive Inc. lost 38 staffers, or roughly 16 percent. IEC Electronics Corp. continued to grow in the last year, adding some 55 employees, or roughly 15 percent.

Among the area's top private companies, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. reported 577 more staffers this year compared with last year. The company has 13,858 employees locally.

"We have continued to grow our business by focusing on the needs of our employees and our customers," said Jo Natale, director of media relations, adding that the growth translates to lower prices for consumers.

The biggest losses among private employers came from Bausch & Lomb and LeChase Construction Services LLC, each having shed 125 jobs since last year. Sutherland Global Services Inc. and HCR increased their staffs by 106 people in the 12-month period.

New to the list of top private companies are Element K Corp., which employs 290 people; Kessler Restaurants, which employs 750 people here; and Morgan Management, which has 500 employees.

The area's top private-company employers have some 26,045 staffers, compared with 25,527 in 2009, excluding Morgan Management, whose employment numbers from last year were not available. Twelve of the companies reported staff increases in the last year, while the same number reported decreases.

While data from the state Department of Labor continually show year-over-year job losses here-the Rochester area shed some 2,300 private-sector jobs from May 2009 to May 2010-the picture at the area's largest employers is less bleak.

"The bleed has been very, very slow," Gardner said.

Among the top 25 non-profit employers, the YMCA of Greater Rochester reported the largest net gain in employment, adding 317 jobs in the last year. The organization has some 2,735 employees.

"The full-time staff basically remained the same, but our part-time staff is where we really had some growth," said George Romell, president and CEO.

The YMCA expanded its Eastside and Westside locations and has grown its staff across each of its 15 branches, Romell added.

"We have held the line on full-time and professional positions," he noted. "It would stand to reason that there's more part-time positions, which is a more cost-effective alternative for us to help deliver programming."

The University of Rochester added 169 jobs in the last year. The area's largest employer has some 19,610 staffers. Modest job gains also were seen at other area health care and human services employers, including the Center for Disability Rights Inc., Finger Lakes Health and the Hillside Family of Agencies.

Nazareth College of Rochester reported 169 fewer jobs this year than a year ago. However, the drop is the result of the college implementing a more accurate way of counting part-time faculty, said Jo Ellen Pinkham, associate vice president of human resources.

Fourteen of the area's largest non-profit employers increased staff in the last year, while 11 of the organizations shed jobs. Some 60,772 people are employed at the top 25 non-profits, compared with 60,253 at the same organizations a year ago.

Of the job gains and losses across the three sectors, CGR's Gardner said he sees companies that are responding to economic conditions.

"They've adapted to a pretty slow economy, and many of them, in aggregate, seem to be adapting reasonably well, holding their own in what's been a lousy market," he said. "I think that (on) balance, they're encouraging." 

7/23/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.


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