|Kathleen Duncan / Observer-Dispatch|
Julie Wells, MSN, RNC, gives Korrin
Richards, 30, her son Damon Robert
ichards who was born on Jan. 26, 2012,
at Faxton-St. Luke's Healthcare.
Want job security in the Mohawk Valley?
Become a nurse.
Julie Wells, 43, of Mohawk, was looking for a career where she would be able to find a job, have benefits and enough income to support her family.
She decided to go into health care, a field she has worked in for 23 years. Wells is a nurse manager of maternal child services at Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare.
“I knew in nursing I would always be able to find a job,” Wells said. “I think there are still opportunities in health care. In some fields it’s very difficult, if this is where you want to live, for jobs.”
Wells is right on target.
In the Utica-Rome area, other than government jobs, health care is at the top of the list. Manufacturing, and hospitality and entertainment, also employ large numbers of workers, said Dave Mathis, director for Oneida County Workforce Development.
These major industries don’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
Businesses in health care industries, for example, employed 22,205 workers in the Utica-Rome area in 2011, a number that increased 113 from 2010, according to data from Mark Barbano, state Labor Department regional analyst.
And the prediction is health care will continue to grow as the population ages.
Jobs have been a major issue across the nation, with the unemployment rate standing at 8.5 percent. In the Mohawk Valley, unemployment rates and industries have not seen drastic changes.
“This area has been kind of interesting because we never get to the big highs in terms of jobs, or big lows,” Mathis said. “We get along steadily.”
The annual average unemployment rate in the Utica-Rome area was 7.9 percent in 2010 and remained the same in 2011, compared to 8.6 percent statewide in 2010 and 8 percent in 2011, according to state Department of Labor data.
Total jobs in all area industries decreased 1.4 percent from 2010 to 2011 during the January through June time period, according to the data. It was down mainly due to a decrease in federal jobs because many temporary workers were hired for the census, Barbano said.
Hospitality big business
Wells was ahead of her time believing that health care would remain a large employer.
Health care — everything from hospitals to nursing homes, dental to surgical care — has been a large employer for the last few years, Mathis said. According to Mohawk Valley EDGE, health care workers in the area earn anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000.
“As our population ages, there will be more and more of a need,” Mathis said. “Health care is definitely a winner for someone looking to change careers.”
Another popular industry is hospitality and entertainment with more than 8,200 workers. Mathis said the industry flourishes because of gambling at Turning Stone Resort Casino and Vernon Downs, and the region’s proximity to the Adirondacks.
Jobs created by hospitality industry trickle down, fostering jobs in categories such as construction and maintenance. Hotels spring up around businesses, such as the casinos, to accommodate travelers, Mathis said.
“There’s an explosion in new hotels that have gone up over the last couple years,” he said.
Travelers passing through eat at local restaurants, purchase items from local stores and stay in local hotels.
“In general, because of the Adirondacks, we’re kind of like the gateway,” Mathis said.
In decades past, manufacturing was the force upon which the region prospered. Though the industry has seen jobs disappear over the years, it has remained relatively stable with nearly 11,000 workers.
“There may not be as many jobs, but there is stability,” Mathis said. “You can still find employment in manufacturing.”
Area manufacturing workers earn an average of $30,000 to $40,000, according the EDGE.
Looking ahead, Barbano predicts health care jobs will continue to increase as the population ages.
Unfortunately, he said manufacturing jobs will decline because businesses are becoming more efficient — doing more with fewer workers.
The success of manufacturing in the area will depend on companies such as Remington Arms Co., and the Griffiss Business and Technology Park, Mathis said.
Nanotechnology jobs possibly are on the horizon, too, Mathis said. An average annual salary in the nanontech industry is between $55,000 and $65,000
“We’ve got the site. We’ve got the facility. County, state and local governments are behind it,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time before we break through.”
Barbano said jobs growth will continue in the area.
“As the national economy picks up, it will also pick up.”