Northern New York Newspapers
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Wed., Oct. 7
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Northern New York’s unemployment rate is depressingly high. The jobs lost since the economy soured in 2008 have disappeared and little has changed to return those who lost jobs to the market place. Around the nation, 7.6 percent of the workforce or 12 million Americans are unemployed. That is an improvement since the jobless rate peaked at 15 million people without jobs.

When this debacle all began in 2008, only 8 million were unemployed. Our political leaders have been singing the same refrain for several years now — the economy is better and jobs are being created. That does not resonate with 4.4 million people out of work for more than six months. The economy is creating 175,000 new jobs each month. While that sounds like a lot, such a pace will need to double to 350,000 every month for the next three years to bring the number of jobless down to the pre-recession level of 2008.

The nation’s economists blame the persistently high unemployment rate on uncertainty about government policy, a shortage of skilled workers and the reduction in government payrolls of 700,000. But the heart of the problem is much less complicated. Economic recovery and growth has faltered, thus employers feel no pressure to create jobs. Fewer employers are reducing payrolls, but they are making do with current employees and investing capital in equipment to streamline their businesses.

A government that is paralyzed by endless squabbles over higher taxes, more entitlements, increased regulation and a health care delivery system revolution does not provide an environment conducive to investment in job-creating expansion. The private sector is reluctant to take a chance when a decision made today can be subverted tomorrow by a government bureaucrat.

The economy has been hampered by challenges of finding individuals prepared to compete for the highly technical jobs required in an America whose economic success is based upon innovation and experimentation.

The U.S. leads the world in developing fuel sources, using new technology and ideas inconceivable 20 years ago. We have cleaned up our air, we have reduced greenhouse gases and we have the skills to transfer around the world to assure long-term adequate supplies of energy. But we have a government that appears intent on interfering with the energy market. We have a government intent on throwing thousands of workers dependent upon the coal industry out of work instead of unleashing the intellectual abilities of America’s scientists to extract energy from coal without threatening the environment.

It is frightening to think about the future of the north country, whose unemployment rate is two percentage points higher than the national average and whose economy is dependent upon government jobs. The road to full employment in the north country requires investment from businesses not even here. We have lost so many job producers over the last decade our capacity to recover is limited.

Government needs to make upstate New York attractive to big and small employers. The atrophy of the school system must be reversed, tax rates moderated, regulation streamlined and partnerships between idea generators and investors encouraged.

The solution lies here at home. We cannot depend upon Washington. Instead, local communities need to focus their attention on cooperation and participation to encourage potential employers that the north country has a viable future.

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