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Places Left Behind

A Look at Economies of Communities in New York and Connecticut


Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York. These three medium-sized cities occupy the same metropolitan statistical area. After consistent employment gains during the last 11 quarters which have driven unemployment to a low of 3.5 percent, the local economy seems to be losing some momentum: employment increased by only 0.4 percent during the first two quarters of 1999 (annual rate), compared with 1.6 percent last year and 1.5 percent in 1997.

Albany - while the metropolitan statistical area itself has seen slight population growth, the city itself continues to see its residents move out. Since 1980, the central city has seen a total decline of 7.3 percent (from 101,700 to 94,305). In addition, nearly 23 percent of the area's population is older than 55, compared to 21 percent for the nation as a whole. As a result, the city's labor market is extremely tight and may act as a constraint on further economic growth. While the presence of state government jobs provides some stability, the loss of manufacturing in the city and area has hurt economic performance.

Schenectady. Between 1950 and 1998, total population in the city decreased by over 30 percent from 91,785 to 61,566 persons. The demise of manufacturing has eroded the population base. General Electric Company, once the preeminent employer in the area, exerted a major influence on the local economy. At its peak with over 30,000 employees engaged in both production and research, General Electric was by far the largest employer in the area. Over the years, however, the company has drastically curtailed operations through a succession of job layoffs. Today, it employs less than 5,000 workers in the area. Last year alone, General Electric cut 925 jobs. The retail base in the city has also declined as a function of the downturn in the economy as well as competition from suburban shopping malls. Both commercial and residential property values in the city have declined and its housing market is depressed. In general, property taxes are quite high and there is considerable disinvestment in the central city.

Troy. Troy is the smallest of the three central-cities area. Between 1980 and 1998, its population decreased from 56,638 to 51,320, about 9.4 percent. Troy is located on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, approximately ten miles north of Albany. Historically, the city developed as a major manufacturing and textile center. The decline of both of these industries has caused most of the city's population declines. The closing of the Green Island Ford Plant (across the river from Troy) in the late 1980's also resulted in the loss of numerous high-wage employees. Like many older central cities, the retail base in the downtown core has also declined. While unemployment has declined from 9.2 percent in 1992 to 5.7 percent in 1998, it remains above the national average of 4.5 percent.


Hartford. During the late 1980's and early 1990's, Hartford suffered severe economic losses due to dislocation in the insurance and defense industries. The area has made important economic gains over the past few years. Between 1992 and 1998, unemployment in the city has dropped from 12.6 percent to 6.7 percent, but remains far above the national rate of 4.5 percent. In addition, the city still struggles with high poverty, especially among minorities. A recent study, "Young Child Poverty in the States," conducted by the National Center for Children in Poverty, showed that the childhood poverty rate in Connecticut almost tripled between 1989 and 1995 (from 7 percent to 19 percent) - the fastest increase of any state.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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