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Resisting pessimism

By  - 3/15/2013

Through much of 2012, the Rochester region had one of the best records among the nation's 100 largest metro areas for private-sector job growth since the start of the Great Recession in late 2007. Then the picture darkened.
 
The pace of hiring, which had been slowing for months, went negative in December. The numbers for January, released last week, showed the Rochester area had lost 600 private-sector jobs, though non-farm jobs crept up by 200.
 
Then this week, the latest unemployment numbers were released. The metropolitan Rochester jobless rate in January was 9.1 percent, up from 8.7 percent a year ago; in Monroe County, it was 8.6 percent, versus 8.2 percent in January 2012.
 
These are not good numbers, but let's remember that jobs data are subject to revision. As M&T Bank Corp. economist Gary Keith noted in a recent RBJ column, new and more complete figures could recast both the stall at the end of 2012 and the big gains posted earlier.
 
Eastman Kodak Co.'s fourth-quarter and full-year financial report, released Tuesday, brought another reminder: The local economic impact of Kodak's Chapter 11 restructuring is ongoing. The company's Rochester-area workforce fell to 3,542 at the end of 2012 from 5,129 a year ago-losing nearly 1,600 jobs. That represents almost three-quarters of the total private-sector jobs lost here last year.
 
Kodak's dwindling size and its reported progress toward emergence from bankruptcy protection reduce the potential for more negative jobs impact in the coming months. Elsewhere, other positive signs are visible. Examples include the decision of Dynamax Imaging LLC to relocate its Cortland County facility to Canandaigua, with the prospect of more than 100 additional local jobs in the next five years, and the plans of Perinton-based Continental Service Group Inc. to add 100 jobs this year.
 
In other words, let's not rush into thinking that our region's relative job-growth strength since the recession was an illusion or fluke, or that as the U.S. economy gains momentum, this region will be left behind. The Rochester area faces economic challenges, to be sure, but they should not be overestimated.