The rule of thumb among economy watchers is that recovery from a recession is never in the sectors that declined.
Central New York, however, is still waiting for the recovery from the Great Recession of 2008.
The five-county Central New York region that includes Cortland employs 1,700 fewer people today than in 2009, shows a report from the state Comptroller’s Office released last week. But that’s still better than the North Country, down 3,100 jobs, the Mohawk Valley’s 5,500 lost jobs or the Southern Tier’s 7,500-job loss. Cortland County has about 200 fewer jobs since 2008, state data show.
“The pace of job growth upstate continues to lag well behind downstate New York’s and the nation as a whole,” Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in the report. “Overall upstate employment has not yet recovered fully from the losses associated with the Great Recession.”
In particular, he said, losses were heavy in the information and government sectors, a 5.9 percent drop in government jobs, in particular.
So what’s growing? Leisure and hospitality, and education and health services. Jobs like what you might find at Goldwyn & Boyland Physical Therapy in Cortlandville.
In fact, Dr. David Boyland lists three of Central New York’s 15 fastest-growing job titles in his Tompkins Street practice: physical therapist assistant, physical therapist aide and athletic trainer.
“We’re always going to be growing, but are you cut out for what the job requires?” Boyland said.
“I actually researched this three years ago,” said Susan Ives, a physical therapist assistant and athletic trainer with Goldwyn & Boyland. She had been a trainer for years, with degrees in physical education and sports medicine. “Everybody’s looking for an athletic trainer,” she said while stretching a client’s shoulder, but the hours are a killer for a mom with kids.
What does it require to work for Boyland? Soft skills. Sure, knowledge of physiology, kinesiology and anatomy are good, but Boyland looks for observational skills, teamwork skills and a certain emotional intelligence.
“I look for the ability to interact with all kinds of people and to problem solve,” he said. “The vast majority of people will come in with complicated issues.”
Negotiating problems in a team environment are key job skills for any profession, said Diane Wheaton at the Cortland Works! Career Center.
“Critical thinking is in many of these jobs,” Wheaton said as she looked over a list of the 15 fastest-growing job titles. So is flexibility, social skills and other soft skills.
The problem is that while some of those growth jobs pay well — physician’s assistant,for example — many others don’t. A physical therapist assistant can expect a nice $44,000 median paycheck, but a physical therapist aide — which has no special certifications or required training — can expect only $27,500.
The health sector is weird that way. A home health aide gets a median salary of $22,500, about $10.80 an hour. A surgeon can make $190,000 or more. Health jobs account for 12 of the15 fastest growing job titles.
Still, that’s generally better than the other growth sector in Central New York, leisure and hospitality, which takes two of the remaining three fast-growers: bartenders and restaurant cooks. A cook can expect a median salary of $22,000 a year; a bartender can expect $18,600 a year, less than $9 an hour.
“I get kids who want to go into culinary arts — these types of jobs are a reality check,” Wheaton said. “It’s a lot of work.”
Gone, she said, are the days when a job lasts an entire career. Any professional, from cook to computer scientist, can expect to bounce from place to place. The more specialized the job, the greater need for flexibility. That could mean leaving Central New York.
“On the surface, New York’s economy has rebounded from the Great Recession,” DiNapoli said. “But it should come as no surprise that a closer look reveals pockets of the state still have a long way to go to catch up.”