Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca officials should not overreact to a recent spate of bad job numbers because the figures might reflect statistical noise rather than real changes in the local economy, Alderperson Seph Murtagh said.

Murtagh, chair of the city’s planning and economic development committee, said he was troubled by statistics showing that Ithaca had lost 1,300 jobs over the last 12 months.

Related: Ithaca loses greater percentage of jobs in 12 months than any other NY metro area

But Murtagh cautioned against putting too much stock in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, noting that previous BLS figures apparently demonstrating economic dips were later revised to show economic gains.

The recent BLS stats said Ithaca had a larger percentage drop in jobs over the last 12 months than any other metro area in New York State.


“I think time will tell if those numbers are real or if there is some statistical error,” Murtagh said. “It might be too soon to tell if they’re real.”

While stressing that he doesn’t “presume to speak for employment throughout the region,” Murtagh said the new job figures do not square with what he’s observed.

There have been no reports of major layoffs at Ithaca’s largest employers like Ithaca College or Cornell, Murtagh said. The city’s downtown hotel boom is moving apace, and Ithaca has accelerated job training and other economic development programs, according to Murtagh.

Ithaca’s economy has been heralded as a rare success story; a New York Times story from August 2013, for instance, said that the city is an “upstate exception: a successful liberal enclave in a largely conservative region troubled by unemployment woes.”

So just why the local economy would now be suffering significant job losses is confounding, Murtagh said.

“It’s a complete mystery to me,” Murtagh said. “There’s a sense of confusion about what we’re seeing.”

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.