Between 2002 and 2012, the City of Ithaca had the highest job-growth rate in New York state — outperforming New York City, Syracuse and Albany. Employment rose 12.42 percent over the past 10 years, well over the national average of 2.52 percent. Though this is a source of pride and excitement for the city, Ithaca should not celebrate job growth based on numbers alone.
Much of this growth has been credited to Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick’s projects, including construction across the City of Ithaca. Myrick said the most significant factors in job growth have been Ithaca College and Cornell University, and the local economy will continue to rely on the education industry.
But celebrating the job growth in Ithaca without contextualization is misleading. The “Employment Trends in New York State” report states that the largest growth for Ithaca has been in government and service-providing positions — fields that do not appeal to every graduate. Because the city’s economy is anchored around education, this limits job opportunities for students graduating with career goals that extend beyond what Ithaca currently offers.
Myrick also said convincing students to stay and begin businesses will help the economy. While this is an ambitious goal, Ithaca has to overcome issues with underemployment. Students from Cornell University and the college are gaining undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. Employers beyond Ithaca are more attractive because they offer graduates more job opportunities that match their qualifications.
If the city wants students to remain after graduation, it cannot rely on one criterion to measure its rise in employment. The city needs to diversify job opportunities to attract a wider range of people who will bolster the local economy.