New York has added private-sector jobs in all but three of the 38 months since the COVID-19 outbreak of March 2020—but the Empire State remains below its pre-pandemic employment level and continues to trail the national recovery.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, private-sector employment in New York totaled 8.26 million jobs as of June, according to the latest state Labor Department report. This figure was 78,000 jobs (0.9 percent) short of the record 8.34 million jobs counted in February 2020, the month before the start of the pandemic. By contrast, private employment in the U.S. as a whole is now nearly 4 million jobs (3 percent) above the pre-pandemic level.



As shown in the trendlines above, New York matched or even slightly exceeded the nation’s employment growth for most of the decade leading up to the pandemic, although the state had begun to fall noticeably behind the U.S. pace in the second half of 2019. Statewide private employment dropped by nearly 2 million jobs in April 2020, bottoming out more than 23 percent below the pre-pandemic level, while the nation’s initial pandemic-driven job loss (heavily weighted by the New York number) equated to 16 percent of the February 2020 level.

As of June, New York was one of only nine states still significantly short of a full post-pandemic jobs recovery. Roughly tied with Alaska, North Dakota, Louisiana, and West Virginia, all of which remain about 1 percent below their February 2020 job levels, the Empire State was in better shape than Hawaii and Vermont, where employment was still down 5.3 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively. Maryland (-2.1 percent) and Rhode Island (-2.8 percent) also have experienced notably slower job recoveries, as shown below, while Michigan (-0.1 percent), Minnesota (-0.1 percent), and Connecticut (-0.3 percent) are on the verge of fully recovering.



New York continues to significantly underperform its large peer states. Florida and Texas—which lifted their COVID lockdowns and reopened schools sooner than New York—both had June employment totals more than 8 percent above the early 2020 levels. But at 3.1 percent, private job growth during the same period also has been slightly above the national average (up 3.1 percent) in California, which had lockdown and school closure policies similar to New York’s.

New York regional performance

Measured on a non-seasonally adjusted, year-to-year basis, New York City accounted for fully 81 percent of the statewide gain of 190,200 jobs since June 2022.  Only the tiny Ithaca area grew faster (+6.1 percent) than Gotham (+3.9 percent), as shown in the regional breakout table from the Labor Department.

Among the state’s largest upstate metro areas, Albany-Schenectady-Troy (+2.6 percent), Buffalo (+3 percent), and Syracuse (+2.9 percent) grew faster than the state average. At the other extreme, continuing a longer-term trend, the Southern Tier remains in bad shape: Binghamton had no year-to-year private job gain, and Elmira was down 1.4 percent. The only bigger employment decline was in Watertown-Ft. Drum, where economic conditions are heavily influenced by Army deployments.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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