BUFFALO, N.Y. - It was another promising day on the jobs front in Western New York.
Amazon held a hiring event in Depew on Wednesday morning as it searches for hundreds of part-time workers. By the afternoon, a Mattel spokesperson confirmed Fisher-Price -- with operations in East Aurora -- will look to add 200 seasonal customer service associates. Not even a week ago, job seekers poured into the Buffalo Employment and Training Center on Goodell Street to compete for jobs with Panasonic, which along with Tesla and SolarCity will help bring close to 3,000 jobs to this area.
That's all good news. But what does it mean? And what kind of difference does it make in the Western New York market?
Matthew Hubacher, a research manager with Invest Buffalo Niagara, said the investment by major companies certainly represents progress for the region.
"We have a trained work force here. That work force is available, they're very hardworking, and they're ready to staff these different expansion projects that have been announced," Hubacher said.
Invest Buffalo Niagara, a non-profit economic development agency that helps attract companies to the area, commissioned a 2017 Labor Market Assessment that revealed slight economic growth since the recession, although it's slower than the national average. The overall economy grew about six percent since 2010, whereas jobs grew about three percent.
The economy is more diverse here than ever, though, which is a good sign for the future and indicates that manufacturing is no longer the only reliable industry in the area. Specialized industries in manufacturing, financial services, transportation and other fields are emerging, and that's helping Invest Buffalo Niagara entice companies to expand here.
But the labor market assessment reported that more than 132,000 people are considered "underemployed" in this region, which is maybe why we've seen so many people standing in line for new opportunities at these packed job fairs.
"And that's a huge pool of talent that local companies, and companies that are expanding in our region, can take advantage of," Hubacher said.
Job training will be a real key moving forward. According to the assessment, a fifth of the jobs in this region -- particularly in manufacturing -- may open up in the next decade because of retirements.
"Job training opportunities need to be ramped up. Our partners at Buffalo Niagara Partnership are doing a talent management pipeline to get those workers trained to market opportunities," Hubacher said, "so that the local workforce knows where the opportunities lie."