Sidney Plant’s Job Cuts Spur Unemployment Rate
Published: December 30th, 2008
By: Melissa deCordova

NORWICH – Unemployment hit a new high for the year of 6.7 percent in November headed off by about 265 jobs lost at Meadwestvaco, located just over the county line in Sidney.

November’s unemployment rate compared to 6 percent in October and 4.6 percent in November 2007. Chenango County’s figure is now higher than the nation’s, at 6.5 percent, and New York’s at 5.9. Most jobs were lost in the professional and business services sector.

While officially in Delaware County, nearly half of Meadwestvaco’s 1,050 employees commute daily from Chenango’s nearby towns and villages. The latest cuts at the consumer and office supplies maker included 50 salaried staff that are not seasonal layoffs, company officials said earlier this month. The company blamed the cutbacks on the "challenging economic environment.”

The remaining workforce, which is unionized, is currently in contract negotiations. A spokesperson for the company could not be reached for comment, but analysts are predicting that Meadwestvaco could face diminished earnings next year because of slowing demand, partly from customers reducing inventories and partly from weaker pension and real estate income.

Gary Waffle, a director with the Chenango, Delaware and Otsego Office of Employment and Training, said the county continues to get hit with layoffs at both large and small companies. He pointed to the steadily declining workforce at Amphenol Corporation, also based in Sidney, and fewer retail jobs available over the holiday season.

As a result, the traffic flowing in and out of the career center’s doors on O’Hara Drive in Norwich has increased. An orientation visit to the office is a requirement when filing for unemployment insurance.

“This might be a good opportunity for people to get skill upgrades. Some could receive funding assistance to go to school and learn a new occupation,” he said.

Chenango’s job market has been hard hit, said Alan Sessions, business services representative of the CDO OET in Otsego County.

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