Friday, April 25, 2014

How Casinos Might Help Catskills Employment, By County

As a result of last November’s election, there will be one or two casinos, almost certainly as parts of large resorts, opening in the Catskills later this decade.  What effect could they have on jobs and joblessness in the New York counties of Sullivan, Ulster, and Orange, if they are built in those locations? 

Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases county employment and unemployment data, which is not seasonally adjusted.  The most recent month available is February, typically a neutral month for employment.  It shows the following for the three counties:

As you can see, Sullivan is not only the smallest of the three, but has the highest unemployment rate. 

If there were one casino resort built, how might the numbers look?   We can use the following assumptions:

  • The number of jobs created at the resort, which would include a hotel as well as a large casino and many other amenities, would be the industry standard of one position per hotel guest room.
  • The number of guest rooms would be 1,110, matching the EPR Properties proposal for a resort on the site of the Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake.
  • Jobs elsewhere in the county would break even, with existing business decline offset by new opportunities created.
  • 25% of resort jobs would be filled by new arrivals moving into the county.
  • 75% of resort jobs would be filled by county residents, including new arrivals.
  • All jobs formerly held by resort employees would be backfilled by otherwise unemployed people living in the county.
  • Each new arrival would bring in one other adult, half of whom would join the labor force.

When we implement all of these, we get the following for each possible county, also based on February 2014 data:

As you can see, the effects differ.  Sullivan, if such a casino were located there, might have a decrease in unemployment from 9.2% to 7.8%, while it would mean less to the more populous Ulster and Orange.

What happens if any of the counties above were to get two such resorts?  Using the same assumptions as before, we get this:

The results here are even more dramatic.  If two large casino resorts were put in Sullivan County, and the suppositions above proved accurate, unemployment there would drop almost 30%, whereas Orange, if that county were chosen to get two, would see their jobless rate improve less than 10%.

We can, of course, question the above assumptions.  They could, however, prove more positive as well as more negative, as resort visitors could want more goods and services than expected from other providers, and temporary construction jobs, not considered above, could prove significant.  In all, while we can expect casino resorts to be greatly beneficial for jobs wherever they are built, the county they would help most would be Sullivan.  Accordingly, the committee working to get not only one but two there is truly working to better it.          

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