Unemployment rates in local counties for May are up from a year ago, new figures show.
Fulton County ranked No. 1 in May unemployment among New York's 57 upstate counties.
Meanwhile, Montgomery County rated third in joblessness among upstate counties.
The state Department of Labor released the jobless figures this week.
The unemployment rate in Fulton County for May was 10.8 percent, up from April's 10.6 percent rate. Fulton County's unemployment rate was at 9.6 percent in May 2011.
"I'm disappointed to hear those numbers," Mark Kilmer, interim president of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said Wednesday. "I know the governor is trying to do things."
The following percentages from the state Department of Labor show unemployment rates for select counties. The rates are up from a year ago.
Fulton: 10.8 percent in May; 10.6 percent in April; 9.6 percent in May 2011.
Montgomery: 10.3 percent in May; 10.4 percent in April; 9.3 percent in May 2011.
Hamilton: 9.2 percent in May; 11.6 percent in April; 8.6 percent in May 2011.
Saratoga: 7.1 percent in May; 6.7 percent in April; 6.3 percent in May 2011.
Herkimer: 8.8 percent in May; 9 percent in April; 8.3 percent in May 2011.
That county's chamber is trying to merge with the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
The state's unemployment rate for May was 8.6 percent. Nationwide, the rate was 7.9 percent.
Montgomery County's May unemployment rate stood at 10.3 percent - down from 10.4 percent in April, but still up from the 9.3 percent rate recorded a year ago.
Only the Bronx's 12.8 percent unemployment rate for May was higher than Fulton County's rate in New York state.
Kilmer said if there is a "positive side" to Fulton County's unemployment situation, there are companies such as Fage USA at the Johnstown Industrial Park. That company employs 240 people and is in the middle of an expansion that Fage says will create another 150 jobs.
Fulton County Center for Regional Growth President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Reese told his board earlier this month he sees an upswing in prospective business and economic growth in the county.
Examples of that, he said, are: a sausage manufacturer considering Gloversville with 10 to 15 new jobs, an existing business that wants to buy a new facility in Gloversville, prospective tenants for the Johnstown Professional Office Complex and Crossroads Business Park in Gloversville, a person who has a patent and wants to start a business in Fulton County, and a person who wants to open a business in Northville.
Reese on Wednesday remained optimistic.
"I think as the state and national economy continues to improve, I think we'll see improvement as well," he said.
He said California-based CG Roxane is waiting on permits, but hopes to start construction on its new town of Johnstown water bottling plant next month. That operation would provide 30 to 40 jobs to start, he said.
Reese said the CRG also continues to court an unnamed manufacturer that may provide more than 50 jobs in Gloversville, or "somewhere in Fulton County."
On the flip side, he said some companies in the county continue to be hurt by the economy. Reese said Pearl Leather Finishing at the Glove Cities Industrial Park has had to move some work to Mexico. He also mentioned Carville Leather Corp. in Johnstown, a military provider, that has been hit by national defense cutbacks.
"We just have to keep chipping away," Reese said. "We see these wins going on one side, but then losses on another, which is pretty typical in an economy like ours."
Hamilton County's unemployment rate for May was 9.2 percent - down from 11.6 percent in April, but up from 8.6 percent a year ago.
Among the highest other rates in the state for May were St. Lawrence County at 10.4 percent.
Double-digit unemployment rates for this area harken back to the mid-1980s when Fulton County's rate was at 12 percent, earning the county the dubious No. 1 ranking back then. At the time, former Gov. Mario Cuomo named Gloversville among the first Economic Development Zones to provide incentives to businesses.
Kilmer, who remembers the stagnant 1980s, said Cuomo's son - current Gov. Andrew Cuomo - also has an eye on this area with possible "incentives" to stimulate job creation. He said local agencies will continue to work hard toward creating more jobs.
"Obviously, as a chamber, we need to do all we can to promote our businesses and market the area," Kilmer said.
Kilmer said he realizes the economy and unemployment are national issues, but upstate New York also has an over-arching problem with high taxation and regulation that might hamper job growth.
Mark Barbano, a Utica-based state Department of Labor market analyst for the Mohawk Valley, said Thursday it is "hard to pinpoint" why joblessness is such a problem among rural counties such as Fulton and Montgomery.
"They've had a history of being one of the highest [in unemployment]," he said.
With today's economy, he said, the Department of Labor sees economic stagnation in rural counties that are "not super tourist areas."
Barbano said that since the 1990s - after the initial success of Fulton County's economic development zone and creation of industrial parks - the county has "taken its hits" in attempts to create new jobs. That was the period when many of the area's remaining leather industries began to shut down or pull out of the area.
Charleston Supervisor Shayne Walters, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, said Wednesday he was surprised to hear Fulton County held the top position in unemployment.
"Fulton County, appearancewise, has more businesses than Montgomery County," he said. "Montgomery County is constantly trying to bring companies in."
Walters said Montgomery County used to have many farming and agricultural jobs, but "nobody wants to do that kind of work anymore." He said many young people also have unrealistic expectations, thinking they automatically will land a $20-per-hour job after graduating.
The area received a shot in the arm last week when the federal government announced four regional job search and training agencies, including the Fulton-Montgomery-Schoharie Workforce Development Board, will share in a $3 million grant. The local board operates Workforce Solutions Centers in Amsterdam, Gloversville and Cobleskill.
Gail Breen, executive director of the Fulton-Montgomery-Schoharie Workforce Development Board, said her board's share of the $3 million U.S. Department of Labor grant award will go a long way toward helping residents seeking jobs or retraining.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.