Week CXXXXI: COVID hospitalizations down, sales-tax collections up

— Chart from NYSDOL

Total nonfarm and private-sector jobs increased in October 2022.

ALBANY COUNTY — Numbers for Albany County are headed in the right direction this week — with infection and hospitalizations rates going down and sales-tax revenues and jobs going up.

Local sales tax collections in New York state increased by 14.1 percent in October compared to the same month in 2021, according to an analysis released this week by the state’s comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli.

Overall, local collections totaled $1.75 billion, up $217 million compared to the same time last year.

For January through October of this year, sales-tax collections in Albany County increased 11.3 percent over the same period of time in 2021 — going from $258.1 million last year to $287.4 percent this year.

In Albany County, the biggest monthly jumps in percentages, year to year, were in March for an increase of 26.3 percent and in April for an increase of 25.5 percent over the year before.

Two months in that period had a decrease — a drop of 7.1 percent in February and a dip of 4.0 percent in August, year over year.

The recently released numbers show an increase of 12.8 percent this October in Albany County over last October — from $24.2 million to $27.3 million.

“October’s sales tax collections saw the strongest monthly year-over-year growth since May, despite the participation of many counties in the gas tax holiday,” DiNapoli said in releasing the analysis. “However, as inflation continues to increase costs for many municipalities, it is important that local officials recognize that changing economic conditions may impede future collections.”

New York City’s collections totaled almost $789 million, an increase of 17.3 percent, or $116 million  over October of 2021.

Nearly all counties saw some year-over-year growth in October collections, with Yates County experiencing the largest increase at 173 percent. However, this growth was mostly the result of a large technical adjustment made to the county’s collections.

Chenango County had the steepest decline with a drop of 16.1 percent.

 

Jobs

The state’s labor department released figures this week showing the number of private-sector jobs in New York State increased over the month by 3,700 to 8,063,300 in October 2022.

At the same time, the number of private-sector jobs in the United States increased by 0.2 percent.

    New York State’s private-sector jobs (not seasonally adjusted) increased by 306,400, or 3.9 percent, over the year in October 2022, which exceeded the 3.8 percent increase in the number of private-sector jobs in the U.S.

    New York State’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 4.3 percent in September to 4.4 percent in October 2022. At the same time, New York State’s labor force (seasonally adjusted) increased by 15,000.

As a result, the labor-force participation rate went up from 60.3 percent in September to 60.5 percent in October 2022, matching its highest rate since March 2020.

While the statewide unemployment rate increased from 4.3 percent to 4.4 percent this October, that increase was due to New York City’s unemployment rate increasing from 5.6 percent to 5.9 percent.

Outside of New York City, the unemployment rate held steady at 3.3 percent.

Overall, the number of unemployed New Yorkers increased over the month by 10,400, from 404,600 in September to 415,000 in October 2022.

For the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area, the over-the-year change in total nonfarm jobs increased by 1.7 percent or 7,800 jobs.

The over-the-year change in private-sector jobs for our area was up 2.4 percent or 8,400 jobs.

For the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area, the net gain in jobs from October 2021 to this past October was 7,800 jobs, an increase of 1.7 percent. 

Statewide, from October 2021 to this past October, the industry sector with the biggest increase in jobs was education and health services for a net of 75,200, an increase of 3.6 percent.

The leisure and hospitality sector was a close second with a net of 71,800 jobs, an increase of 9.0 percent, followed by professional and business services with a net of 66,100 for an increase of 5.0 percent.

 

Food help

Once again, additional help is being offered for New Yorkers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP, formerly as food stamps.

All households participating in SNAP, including those already at the maximum level of benefits, will receive a supplemental allotment this month, resulting in a roughly $234 million infusion of federal funding into the New York State economy.

“SNAP is one of our greatest tools in addressing food insecurity among New Yorkers, especially those who are still suffering from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a release, making the announcement. “These funds will help New Yorkers purchase healthy, nutritious food for themselves and their families, while freeing up resources for other household needs.”

Households already near or at the maximum benefit level — $939 for a household of four — will receive a supplemental payment of at least $95. SNAP households in all counties outside of New York City should see these extra benefits posted by Wednesday, Nov. 23.

New Yorkers continue to rely heavily on SNAP, with more than 1.6 million households, including more than 2.8 million New Yorkers, throughout the state enrolled in the program in September, according to the governor’s office. While SNAP recipients statewide were down slightly compared to August, they were up 2.5 percent over September 2021.

 

Albany County numbers

This week, Albany County’s 141st of dealing with the coronavirus, the governor’s office reported two more Albany County residents had succumbed to the virus: Both COVID-related deaths were reported on Nov. 16.

However, the county’s dashboard, as of Monday, Nov. 21, still shows a death toll of 598, the same as last week.

For the third week in a row, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have designated Albany County as having a medium community level of COVID-19. The county had been at a medium level for 13 weeks before being labeled “high” for five weeks.

The weekly metrics the CDC used to determine the current medium level are: Albany County now has a case rate of about 76 per 100,000 of population, down from 104 last week, and a COVID hospital admission rate of 15 per 100,000, about the same as last week. Also, the county has 5.7 percent of its staffed hospital beds filled with COVID patients, down from 6.3 last week.

As of Nov. 18, according to Albany County’s COVID dashboard, the seven-day average for hospitalized COVID patients was 19.86, continuing a marked down trend from 25.57 last week and 36.43 two weeks ago. Ten weeks ago, the county’s seven-day average for hospitalized residents was 15.14.

About 37.2 percent of the Capital Region residents hospitalized with COVID this week were not admitted because of having the virus, according to a chart from the governor’s office.

Nationwide, just 3 percent of counties are now labeled “high” while 17 percent are “medium” and 80 percent are “low.”

In New York State, just four counties are labeled “high” — Kings, Queens, the Bronx, and Richmond — while about half are “low,” including all but one, Rensselaer, surrounding Albany County, and the rest are “medium.”

Although figures on infection rates are no longer reliable since tracing and tracking systems have been disbanded, the state dashboard shows that cases statewide and in Albany County are continuing to level off and even drop after two months of climbing.

Albany County, as a seven-day average, now has 8.0 cases per 100,000 of population, down from 10.6 last week and a sharp decrease from 15.2 two weeks ago and down from 16.3 three weeks ago, 17.1 four weeks ago,  21.0 five weeks ago, 21.1 six weeks ago, 19.1 seven weeks ago, 19.7 eight weeks ago, 17.1 nine weeks ago, 16.3 ten weeks ago, 17.0 eleven weeks ago, 17.3 twelve weeks ago, 17.9 thirteen weeks ago, 19.3 fourteen weeks ago, and 21.8 cases per 100,000 fifteen weeks ago.

This compares with 19.0 cases per 100,000 statewide, which is down slightly from 18.8 last week and down from 20.9 two weeks ago and from 20.1 three weeks ago and from 18.9 four weeks ago, 20.3 five weeks ago, 19.9 cases six weeks ago, 21.4 seven weeks ago, 23.4 cases eight weeks ago, and 22.2 nine weeks ago, but up from 18.6 cases ten weeks ago, while down from 21.1 cases 11 weeks ago, 23.0 cases 12 weeks ago, 25.6 cases 13 weeks ago, and 30.03 per 100,000 of population 14 weeks ago.

The lowest rates are in Western New York at 7.28 cases per 100,000 population. The highest count is now in New York City at 24.69, which is up slightly from 24.03 last week, but down slightly 24.89 two weeks ago.

The numbers for vaccination in Albany County have hardly budged for several months.

As of Tuesday, 61.5 percent of eligible residents had received booster shots, according to the state’s dashboard. At the same time, 75.5 percent of county residents had completed a vaccination series, the same as it has been for weeks.

This compares with 79.9 percent of New Yorkers statewide completing a vaccination series, which has gone up slightly every week for the last five weeks, when it was 79.1 percent.

The shift in the prevalence of Omicron sublineages has continued this week.

The once-dominant BA.5 now makes up about 24 percent of new COVID cases nationwide., with BQ.1 at about 26 percent and BQ.1.1 at about 24 percent.

In Region 2 — New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands — the spread of the new sublineages is even more pronounced.

For the week between Nov. 13 and 19, BA.5 now makes up just roughly 14 percent of the cases while BQ.1 is now dominant at roughly 35 percent followed by BQ.1.1 at 29 percent.

BF.5 makes up 14 percent while BF.7 accounts for 6 percent of new cases while BA.4.6 makes up 3 percent; the other sublineages each make up 3 percent or less.

The bivalent booster shot was designed to combat BA.4, which is now almost nonexistent, and BA.5 — and so may still be effective against its similarly highly contagious descendants.

New Yorkers are being encouraged by the state’s health department to get bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech for anyone age 5 or older and from Moderna for those 6 or older.

To schedule an appointment for a booster, New Yorkers are to contact their local pharmacy, county health department, or healthcare provider; visit vaccines.gov; text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations.

 

Funds for youth mental-health programs

More than $3.3 million in federal funds are being released to community-based healthcare providers to increase access to mental health services for children and families across the state, it was announced this week.

“The COVID pandemic had devastating effects on Americans’ mental health, and few suffered more than our children,” said Congressman Paul Tonko in a release announcing federal aid. “I was proud to take action to address this crisis with funding for mental health services in our American Rescue Plan, and I continue to press for further action through legislation including my COVID-19 Mental Health Research Act. I’m grateful that families across New York State will now receive the services they need and deserve.”

Administered through the state Office of Mental Health, the federal funding is aimed at helping community-based service providers better serve children and youth who are dually diagnosed with mental illness and a developmental disability or substance use disorder.

The grants are funded through the American Rescue Plan Act and time-limited expansion of the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage share of funds for Medicaid programs.

 

Workers comp

The Workers’ Compensation Board continues its webinar series for workers who believe they contracted COVID-19 on the job, especially those who have missed time from work or are suffering from ongoing or “long-haul” symptoms.

Each one-hour session will provide information on workers’ rights when it comes to filing a workers’ compensation claim and the cash and/or medical benefits they may be eligible to receive.

While the online sessions are targeted toward workers who have lost time from work, have ongoing medical problems and/or fall into the category of “long haulers,” the information is relevant to anyone who believes they may have contracted COVID-19 due to an exposure at work.

Workers have two years from the time they contracted COVID-19 to file a claim.

The next session is on Wednesday, Dec. 14, from noon to 1 -.m. Registration is not required.

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