The fourth major economic indicator that was examined in The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010 was changes in the employment rate. In 2010, the employment rate of the population 16 years and older in New York State stood at 57.7% and in the U.S. it was 57.6%.
The U.S. Census data used does not separate full-time and part-time jobs, nor does it provide information on the quality of these jobs, benefits or health insurance, among other things. The data is for people in a given geography 16 years and older who are employed at the time of the decennial census.
In this report we aggregated the data of the 61 Adirondack Park Towns that are 100% within the Blue Line in order to compare Adirondack communities with other areas in the U.S. The purpose was to see if Adirondack communities stood out in any way from other places by studying trends of leading economic and population indicators from 1970 to 2010. In 2010, the 61 Park Towns had just over 100,000 residents, 77.4% of the Park’s estimated population of 130,000.
An analysis of employment rate trends was useful for evaluating differences between regions, especially when analyzed with a range of other economic indicators, such as median household income, per capita income and poverty rates. The two tables below show the change in employment rates across New York, the U.S., and Rural America over a 40-year time frame. An overview of the report is provided here. An explanation of the methods used is provided here.
Employment as a percent of the total population 16 years and older is an important indicator for assessing the economic vitality of a region because it shows the number of residents who are actively employed and working. From 1970 to 2010, the Park Towns and Split Towns experienced the greatest improvements in their employment rates as compared with all other regions. The Park Towns saw an increase of 12.0%, growing from 47.8 in 1970 to 53.6% in 2010, and the Split Towns (those around the Park’s boundary that are split by the Blue Line) grew by 16.1%, compared with the growth in New York State of 5.3% and the U.S. increase of 6.1%.
How did the Park Towns’ 12% growth in its employment rate from 1970 to 2010 compare with other areas? From 1970 to 2010, the Park Towns’ growth in its employment rate was higher than that of 71% of the towns, boroughs and cities in New York State, areas with 87% of the state’s population. The Park Towns had a higher growth than that of 65% of U.S. counties, areas with 75% of the U.S. population.
How did the Park Towns’ 12% growth in its employment rate from 1970 to 2010 compare with other rural areas? From 1970 to 2010, the Park Towns’ growth in its employment rate was higher than that of 64% of Rural America counties, areas with over 73% of the population of Rural America. Closer to home, the Park Towns had a higher growth in its employment rate than that of 84% of rural counties in the Northeast U.S., areas with 89% of the population of the Rural Northeast.
When studying employment rates it’s important to note that something was happening in northern New York in 1970 – and it was not good. In 1970, at the point in time before the creation of the regional land use regulations of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and a period of significant land acquisition, the Park Towns’ employment rate was 47.8% and Split Towns’ rate was 47.7%, which lagged far behind the New York State rate of 54.8% and the U.S. rate of 54.3%. The 1970 employment rates for the Park Towns and Split Towns also lagged behind other rural areas in 1970, which ranged from 49.2% to 52.7%. The 47 rural New York towns with a similar population density as the 61 Park Towns, which have a number of towns in the southern tier and central New York, also had a higher employment rate in 1970 of 52.1%. (See the two tables above and below.) For some reason, Adirondack communities in 1970 appeared to be out of step and lagging behind New York State, the U.S., and Rural America.
In 2010, the Park Towns’ employment rate of people 16 years or older stood at 53.6%. The two tables show that between 1970 and 2010 the Park Towns experienced employment growth that went from a rate that lagged far behind other rural areas to a position equal to most. In 2010, the 61 Park Towns had a higher employment rate than that of 53% of the counties in Rural America, home to 57% of the Rural America population. Closer to home, the Park Towns had a higher employment rate than that of 39% of the rural counties in the Northeast U.S., home to 36% of the rural population in the northeast.
The healthy growth in the overall employment rate of people 16 years and older helped the Park Towns make up a lot of ground when compared with other areas, coming from the back of the pack in 1970 to the middle of the pack by 2010. Despite being in the middle of the pack among rural areas, the Park Towns still lagged behind New York State and the U.S. In 2010, the Park Towns’ employment rate was higher than that of 26% of the towns, boroughs and cities in New York, areas with 18% of the state’s population. It was higher than that of 45% of U.S. counties, home to 23% of the U.S. population, some 71.6 million people.
One of the main purposes of The Adirondack Park and Rural America report was to see if the economic experience of Adirondack communities was fundamentally different than that of other areas in the U.S., especially rural areas, during the last four decades.
An analysis of long-term employment rate trends from 1970 to 2010 showed that the experiences of Adirondack communities did not stand out in any way during these years, despite the growth of environmental protections for the region. 1970 was a time of a seemingly depressed economy in northern New York when the Park Towns and Split Towns severely lagged behind other communities in New York and the U.S. Over the last 40 years Adirondack communities experienced a growth in their overall employment rate that moved the region from far behind other rural areas to the middle of the pack.
The next article in this series looks at long-term self employment trends.