Eclipsed by politics, health care and so much else lately, the economy and unemployment have been taking a backseat, as if those puzzles had been solved. Look no further than the most recent jobless numbers for evidence of continuing challenge: unemployment statewide reached 9.2 percent in January, up from 8.9 percent a year ago.
The rate in non-metropolitan counties topped out at 10.1 percent. Among the states, only New York reported higher unemployment in January than the previous month.
Against that backdrop it is perhaps easier to understand why Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the White House are fast-tracking a new Tappan Zee Bridge, with major questions still unanswered; why some upstate counties have been itching for Albany approval of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, notwithstanding concerns about the natural gas drilling method; and why gambling is getting a new boost in New York, despite being a shaky bet in its own right. Desperate times call for some shortcuts, the thinking must go.
Nonetheless, the new budget quietly and efficiently moving through Albany looks to make a dent in the state’s jobless rate, via some conventional ways. The $132.6 billion plan contains major ingredients to spur job creation over a range of endeavors, from emerging science and technologies to repairing infrastructure, everything from roads to dams. It moves forward without protracted partisan wrangling or obstruction — what voters should expect from leaders in tough times.