Jobs Up 3.7% In Tourism

Growth trends seen in the jobs market appear to be intact in the latest report, offering modest hopes for the Hudson Valley in a notoriously slow-growth economy. Total jobs in the seven-county region were up by nearly 1 percent in the July accounting issued Thursday by the state Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, there’s a seasonal surge in the tourism sector, known to the statisticians as “leisure and hospitality.” That’s normal for summer. But the category also shows year-over-year growth of 3.7 percent, which was the strongest percentage gain of any category and signifies a healthy trend.

A case in point: SplashDown Beach, a water park in Fishkill, employs about 350 people this year, said General Manager Andrew Chafatelli. It’s grown year by year, adding features with extra land bought last year. SplashDown is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. “Ninety percent of our staff is college and high school students,” said Chafatelli. They are readily available for jobs that will end when summer does. Jenn Lupo, 16, a Roy C. Ketcham High School student, got her first summer job here this year. “When I turned 16, this was a perfect opportunity,” she said. She’ll use the money for buying clothes and school supplies.

Tourism, along with trade, professional and business services, education and health, showed gains versus the same month a year earlier. Even construction, in the dumps for years, posted a 2.1 percent gain in the region. The job-losing sectors were manufacturing, information and government. Government jobs fell by 2,700 in the valley, a drop of 1.7 percents, while private-sector work rose by 10,600, a boost of 1.4 percent. Combine the two, and you get an overall 0.9 percent increase.

But it’s not evenly spread. In the statistical area that encompasses Dutchess and Orange Counties, growth in jobs was far lower — only a percent overall, just 200 jobs more than in 2012. In that two-county area, private-sector jobs increased by 1,500, or 0.7 percent, while government jobs dropped by 1,300, or 2.8 percent. Growth was in health care and in professional and business services as well as in tourism, which added 700 jobs. In Ulster County, overall growth was 0.3 percent, most of it in trade and tourism. Statewide unemployment was 7.5 percent in July, the same as June, and down from 8.7 percent a year earlier.

Johny Nelson, regional analyst for the Labor Department, said the region’s private-sector jobs boost was “double the growth rate recorded over the same period last year.” “Leisure and hospitality posted a growth rate of 3.7 percent over the period, its strongest July in three years,” he said. Most of it was in lodging and food service.

SplashDown offers a case study. At the park, there are jobs like lifeguards, parking attendants, ticket sellers, janitors, maintenance technicians, landscapers, managers and food-service workers. There are three food courts and three snack shops in the 15 acres of attractions. Buses roll in from across southern New York and Connecticut, filled with summer campers.

Chafatelli said a jobs fair is held each year and that more than 600 applied this spring. Hiring continues through the summer to fill vacancies. “This time of year is touch,” said Operations Manager Matt Stevens, “because we have people going back to school.” There’s a 65 percent return rate, but everyone must come in yearly for a new interview.

Marcello Castelli, 16, a junior at Ketcham, is a janitor in his first year at SplashDown. He was having trouble finding work when a friend tipped him to this place. “Every place I looked, they either weren’t hiring for they were looking for 18 or over,” he said. John Scelzo of Wappingers is studying information technology at SUNY Albany. He began at SplashDown during high school as a lifeguard and worked his way up to lead lifeguard.

Rescues do occur, mostly little kids, Scelzo said. But the job is mainly keeping watch and keeping order, especially during peak attendance times. “You’ve got to do a little more crowd control,” he said.

The big challenge for management is at the start. That staff must be put in place in short order. “It’s getting the engines running at the beginning of the season,” said Chafatelli.

Craig Wolf, Poughkeepsie Journal