The Capital Region’s job market is thriving, by all accounts. Hiccups at a few leading employers haven’t offset growth elsewhere.
The result? April’s job numbers, released last Thursday, continued a string of record-breaking performances by the local economy.
So what could go wrong?
Employers are keeping an eye on the escalating trade war with China. David Anderson, president of SEMI Americas, said tariffs could cost the American semiconductor industry $700 million a year.
Corning Inc., a major employer in New York’s Southern Tier, on Thursday was telling Reuters that a ban on China’s Huawei wouldn’t materially affect its financial performance.
According to Reuters, citing data from Bloomberg and Goldman Sachs, Corning had annual revenues of $53.6 million from the Chinese technology company.
General Electric Co. CEO Larry Culp told attendees at the company’s annual meeting in Tarrytown earlier this month that it already was facing “several hundred million dollars in increased costs because of tariffs on imports from China,” Reuters reported.
Additional tariffs would only hurt a manufacturer whose local power generation operations have been struggling. GE has cut several hundred jobs at its operations in Schenectady, and Culp is working to turn the operation around.
Technology & Manufacturing Job Fair Monday
The Times Union’s Technology & Manufacturing Job Fair, held in conjunction the the Monster online jobs site, will be held Monday and is free to job seekers, who should bring an updated resume and be prepared for on-the-spot interviews.
When: Monday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Albany Marriott hotel, 189 Wolf Road, Colonie
On Friday, the Trump administration delivered some good news to manufacturers dependent on imported steel and aluminum, announcing it had lifted the 25 percent tariff on steel and the 10 percent tariff on aluminum that had been levied on Canadian and Mexican producers.
But tariffs on Chinese imports could have a wider impact.
“The impact of tariffs really depends on the sector,” said Mary Estelle Ryckman, former senior advisor with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, who now serves as global markets advisor to the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership. Food processors who need aluminum for cans and auto parts manufacturers who depend on imported steel would have felt the impact of the just-lifted tariffs.
“The potential round with Chinese tariffs could hit more of the retail sector and the consumer,” Ryckman said, driving up prices of finished goods. Walmart, she added, had already warned that prices consumers pay likely would increase.
“These tariffs are coming at a time when we have a booming economy,” Ryckman said. “Companies are sitting on a lot of cash. We also have low unemployment.”
Any concerns about a trade war haven’t yet slowed local expansion plans. In Latham, Philips Medical Systems announced an expansion of its factory that produces components used in magnetic resonance imaging machines. The company plans to add 94 jobs over the next five years, boosting employment at the plant to nearly 500.
Longer-term projects include ongoing expansion at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Rensselaer County and a new Wadsworth Center laboratory for the state Health Department in Albany.
And SUNY Polytechnic Institute announced an $880 million, seven-year partnership with Applied Materials that will develop new materials for use in computer chips, artificial intelligence hardware and possibly quantum computing.
Of the 400 jobs the research initiative will support, 175 will be new Applied Materials positions in Albany.
GlobalFoundries continues to recruit even as it stepped back from an initiative to develop manufacturing techniques that would allow computer chip components as small as 7 nanometers, the latest threshold for microprocessors.
At Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, Dave Larkin, an associate professor who oversees its advanced manufacturing technology program, says demand for his graduates remains as strong as ever.
He recalls one employer who asked to hire his top two graduating students. “Too late,” the employer was told. The students had accepted offers made to them a year or more earlier.
Larkin’s program is expanding with a new campus building, the $14.5 million Gene F. Haas Center for Advanced Manufacturing Skills, which will allow enrollment in the advanced manufacturing technology program to double when it opens in late August.
That may help ease the employee shortages manufacturers are facing.
“Anecdotally, there isn’t a manufacturer that doesn’t have open positions and is looking to hire,” said Louise Aitcheson, vice president of business development, business growth solutions at the Albany-based Center for Economic Growth, a regional economic development organization. “From the standpoint of working with manufacturers throughout the eight-county region, they are very much in a hiring mode.”
The state Labor Department, in its long-term industry employment projections, finds manufacturing jobs overall will see an 8.3 percent increase in the 10-year period ending in 2024.
But while apparel and textile manufacturing show steep double-digit declines, computer manufacturing is expected to post a 60 percent increase. Professional, scientific and technical services, meanwhile, shows a healthy 24 percent gain over the same period.
“On the technology side, (demand) is very strong,” said Miriam Dushane, managing partner of Alaant Workforce Solutions in Colonie. Asked whether the Capital Region had enough candidates to meet that demand, she said “we definitely don’t.”
So she encourages employers to be more open to nontraditional candidates, who may not have a four-year degree but are self-taught, or who can be trained.
She cited Albany Can Code, which trains people who have the aptitude and interest to learn how to write programs and applications.
And she suggests employers be more open to recruiting beyond the Capital Region.
“I wish employers would open their doors to people outside the area,” she said. While this may be standard operating procedure for such major employers as hospitals and universities, other employers — perhaps thinking the Capital Region might not be an attractive place to live, or unwilling to invest in moving and other relocation costs — don’t pursue it.
As a result, “we’re losing people,” she said.
Dushane said organizations such as Talent Connect at the Center for Economic Growth help employees and their families select where to settle, evaluating school districts and other factors to meet their needs.
“Talent Connect does that all the time for larger organizations,” she said. And attracting people from outside the area brings with it new ideas and perspectives that can benefit local employers and the larger community.
Another way to attract outside talent is to recruit at the Capital Region’s numerous colleges and universities.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported last week that the Class of 2019 is facing the best job market for new graduates since 2007, just before the Great Recession.
And anecdotal information suggests more graduates of local schools are accepting jobs in the area. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s School of Engineering, a list of employers includes such local names as Latham-based AngioDynamics, Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp. in Schenectady, Ducommun Aero Structures in Coxsackie, General Electric, GlobalFoundries, and Troy-based Gurley Precision Instruments.
The growth in technology and advanced manufacturing is changing the economy of Albany as its public sector continues to shrink. Now, if employers can only find enough job candidates…
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