PRINT | CLOSE WINDOW

Finding a way to restart the employment engine

By VELVET SPICER
RBJ 75 - 7/29/2011

The area’s largest employers gained ground overall in the last year with job increases in the private and non-profit sectors.
 
As a whole, the RBJ 75—the area’s top public companies, private companies and non-profit organizations—added 1,614 jobs, or 1.5 percent, to more than 109,000 positions at the same firms a year earlier.
 
A year ago, the RBJ 75 had lost 349 jobs over the previous 12 months; in the year before that, the group added roughly 1,000 employees despite a loss of nearly 900 jobs at public companies.
 
“By any standard it’s been a good year for Rochester,” said Kent Gardner, president and chief economist of the Center for Governmental Research Inc.
 
Gardner noted that state Labor Department statistics show an increase of more than 2 percent for employment in the Rochester metropolitan area between April 2010 and April 2011.
 
“That’s a really strong number,” Gardner added. “We’ve had a good run.”
 
He also noted that the roughly 111,000 jobs at the RBJ 75 firms represent more than 20 percent of total employment in the Rochester metro area, according to Labor Department data. 

 The area’s top 25 public companies have 22,908 staffers, a decrease of 1.6 percent from 23,269 a year ago. 

The largest job losses among publicly held employers were at Xerox Corp., which shed 342 jobs over the 12-month period, and Eastman Kodak Co., which has 300 fewer staffers. Kodak employs 7,100 people here, while Xerox has 6,672 employees.
 
Excluding losses at Kodak and Xerox, the public companies in the RBJ 75 gained 281 jobs.
 
Some 17 of the 25 public companies reported job gains since 2010, while seven companies shed jobs and one—Torvec Inc.—was unchanged. Among the public companies, Paychex Inc. again reported the greatest net gain, having added 146 jobs since last year. NaturalNano Inc. reported the highest percentage growth, increasing its staff by two people, or 200 percent.

Among the area’s top private companies, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. reported 653 more employees this year compared with 2010. The company has 14,294 local staffers.
 
“Some of the difference is a result of the normal fluctuations that occur in our workforce,” said Jo Natale, director of media relations. The company has 22 stores in the Rochester area, as well as distribution, manufacturing and corporate facilities.
 
She noted that not all of Wegmans’ job gains were at the store level; some occurred across the company’s divisions.
 
“If our company continues to grow, that’s good news for our local economy,” she added.
 
The biggest loss among the RBJ 75 private companies was at Nixon Peabody LLP, which reported 50 fewer employees in 2011 than a year earlier, shrinking by almost 14 percent.
 
The area’s top 25 private companies employ 27,629 people, up 1,849 or 7.2 percent from 25,780 in 2010. Nineteen of the firms reported staff increases in the last year; five reported decreases and one no change.
 
Sutherland Global Services Inc. reported a staff increase of nearly 500 people, while Bausch & Lomb Inc. added 93 people in the last year. 

Among the top non-profit organizations, the University of Rochester—the area’s largest employer—continued to add jobs. UR now has 19,987 employees, up from 19,610 in 2010. Rochester General Health System added 301 staffers, while Lakeside Health System increased its workforce by 228 in the last year.
 
The Center for Disability Rights Inc. lost nearly 900 jobs over the 12-month period, while the Hillside Family of Agencies shed 219 jobs.
 
Many of the job losses at the Center for Disability Rights were a result of the center losing its contract with Monroe County to provide the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program, said Chris Hilderbrant, chief operating officer.
 
“In that particular program we were employing about 700 or so attendants at that time,” he noted. “Those attendants all had to leave us—(they) either went elsewhere or went on the unemployment roll.”
 
Hilderbrant said the organization is working toward reversing those job losses and is exploring new opportunities within Monroe County.
 
“Everything we’re currently doing is solid, and since last summer our existing programs have continued to grow,” he said.
 
The area’s top non-profit organizations employ some 60,512 people, and the total is up 0.2 percent from 60,386 in 2010. Some 14 organizations reported an increase in staffing, while 11 shed jobs in the last year.
 
Among the RBJ 75, CGR’s Gardner noted, firms in the construction industry fared well in terms of staffing, having increased the number of jobs some 11 percent. The service and retail industries also reported gains in employment, while the manufacturing sector showed a modest decrease in jobs over the last year.
 
“I think Rochester’s employers are well-positioned within their markets,” Gardner said. “We have some companies and organizations doing pretty well, companies that understand their marketplace pretty well.”
 
He added that some firms in Rochester have outperformed their sector and are responding positively to economic factors.
 
“That said, it’s still a pretty uncertain world out there,” he added.
 
Gardner thinks the area’s top employers must continue to anticipate and respond to changes as they happen. In his view, the RBJ 75 face both challenges and opportunities.
 
“I certainly find these numbers encouraging,” he said. “The marketplace is very tumultuous right now. I think that the survival of the (local) economy long-term really depends on these individual companies.”

7/29/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.