In other words, we’ve climbed a little more than halfway out of the 110,000-job hole that we dug in April, but we haven’t made any progress since summer ended.
“The people who have been unemployed aren’t being added back very quickly,” Golebiewski said.
There’s hope that, as more people are vaccinated and the weather warms up, people will feel more comfortable about going back to restaurants, which learned last summer how to offer a wider array of outdoor dining. And plenty of people will have the itch to travel.
“We’ve already seen an uptick in travel,” Golebiewski said. “And we will see more travel this summer than we did last year.”
All of that could lead to a gush of hiring for leisure and hospitality jobs, which are still down by about 25% from a year ago. Those are largely low-wage positions, but their return would give a quick and hefty boost to the local job market.
The federal stimulus money flowing to local governments and higher education should avert what could have been widespread job cuts, said Fred Floss, a SUNY Buffalo State economist.
“That should stabilize that section of the workforce, which could have been devastating because they’re really good jobs,” he said.
Consumer spending has held up well during the later stages of the pandemic, helped by enhanced unemployment benefit payments and stimulus checks that totaled $3,200 for many Americans. With that cash, consumer spending in Erie County is up about 14% from January 2020 and has increased by nearly 7% in Niagara County, according to economic data tracker Opportunity Insights.