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Photo: <a href="http://www.lethbridge.ca/living-here/getting-around/Transit/PublishingImages/Need%20Work.JPG">Lethbridge Transit</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Lethbridge Transit, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

North Country unemployment is down, but it's complicated

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On Monday, the state Department of Labor said unemployment in New York is down to its lowest level since December 2008. This news is good, but it's complicated.

Elsewhere on the unemployment front: Since last year, the long-term unemployed - people out of work for more than 26 weeks - have been trying to get by without help from the government. There used to be assistance for people caught in the rut of long-term unemployment. But Congress didn't include jobless insurance when it passed the budget in December.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

For months, advocates have been fighting to restore the benefits, which would help the 3.5 million Americans who are long-term unemployed. In early April, Democrats in the Senate passed a bill that would extend long-term unemployment benefits to June 1. But lawmakers in the GOP-led House oppose the measure, arguing that jobless benefits make people too reliant on government help.

Conservative lawmakers don't seem likely to concede. Meanwhile, it looks like more people are finding jobs.

"What we seem to be in the midst of is a slow, steady recovery," says Alan Beideck, an analyst at the state Department of Labor. Beideck specializes in the North Country region. Here, he says, people are finding work in a handful of sectors: retail, leisure and hospitality, even manufacturing has had some gains, he says.

But he's wary of calling this hands-down good news without a closer look at the data. He says lower unemployment rates could mean people gave up and dropped out of the workforce. People don't get counted as unemployed if they're not looking for a job.

"There are a lot of factors that can affect both unemployment and employment. If you look at the numbers and see a drop in unemployment you would just automatically tend to assume that employment would have to rise, because if people are no longer unemployed, you would assume that they are employed."

Beideck says North Country employment went down by 1,000 – in other words, 1,000 people stopped working in April. But he says unemployment rates decreased by 3,900 over the same period.

It gets a little confusing, but as far as the latest unemployment rates go, Beideck says it looks like the good news is outpacing the bad.

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