cuomo-ny-post-150x150-9221491Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid is based on the assertion that he has “turned around” New York. However, the economic data paint a more mixed and muted picture of the state’s recovery during his tenure.

Here’s a summary of what the numbers show in key categories.

Economic growth 

Measured by real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP), New York’s economy grew faster than the national average in the post-recession year of 2010. Since then, however, the Empire State has fallen further and further behind the U.S. average, as illustrated by the chart below, based on Commerce Department Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data.


In 2013, New York’s real GDP growth rate ranked 46th out of 50 states. as illustrated in the BEA map below.


Private-sector jobs

The chart below, based on seasonally adjusted “establishment payroll” data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), depicts the trend of private sector payroll job growth in New York State compared to the nation as a whole since Cuomo took office.


As shown, New York State matched the national average through the summer of 2012, but has fallen behind in the past two years. Private employment in New York through September has increased by 511,900 jobs since Cuomo took office. However, if New York had matched the national pace during that period, it would have gained about 70,000 more jobs.

New York’s statewide rate of private-sector employment growth since December 2010 has ranked 23rd out of 50 states.

Regional breakdown:

The BLS doesn’t calculate seasonally adjusted numbers for private-sector employment on a sub-state basis. The latest available comparative data are non-seasonally adjusted monthly employment estimates comparing job totals in each region as of September.

The table below provides a regional and metro economic breakdown of changes in September job data during the past four years and in the past year, respectively. The downstate region, dominated by New York City, has been growing much faster than upstate (everything north of the metropolitan transportation district) — and the slowest growing upstate metro areas are in Central New York and the Southern Tier, which would benefit most from the issuance of long-delayed state regulations allowing the use of hydraulic fracturing in shale gas production.


If the 50 counties of upstate New York were a separate state, their private employment growth rate of 2.5 percent since September 2010 would rank last among all states. During the same period, private employment downstate has grown by 10.2 percent, faster than all but eight states.


The unemployment rate has dropped steadily in New York State since 2009. As of September, before seasonal adjustment, the rate had dipped to 5.6 percent, lowest since 2008. At 5.5 percent, the upstate rate (also before seasonal adjustment) was slightly lower than the downstate rate of 5.7 percent.

This is the latest milepost in a trend that led the governor, in his end-of-session message to the Legislature, to declare: “Last year represented the single biggest one-year drop in the unemployment rate in upstate New York in recorded history.” He frequently has repeated this statement during the campaign.

However, the underlying factors driving the unemployment changes upstate and downstate are starkly different.  As shown by the following chart, the drop in unemployment upstate is due entirely to a decline in the labor force. Fewer upstate residents are available for or seeking work. In fact, based on opreliminary data, there were 53,000 fewer employed people in upstate New York as of September than there had been a year earlier.


In downstate counties, by contrast, employment has been rising, and the labor force – despite a slightly drop in the latest year-to-year data – is larger than it was in 2009.


The bottom line

During the first 18 months after the official end of the Great Recession in mid-2009, New York recovered lost jobs and output more quickly than most states. There were at least two reasons for this. First, during the 2002-2007 expansion, New York was behind the national pace and its economy was not inflated as much by the real estate bubble that had vastly inflated employment in much of the Sunbelt, in particular. Second, the federal response to the financial crisis in the fall of 2008 was focused on jump-starting a recovery on Wall Street.

Since 2010, in one of the most sluggish recoveries on record, New York has barely kept pace with the nation’s performance. To be sure, global and national macro-economic conditions are the prime determinants of economic performance at a state level. But state government policies can play an important role in shaping a state’s relative competitiveness. 

The governor could argue that the state’s economy would be worse if not for his policies, which are heavily reliant on state-funded, targeted corporate subsidies, incentives and investments.  Based on the most common economic statistics alone, however, there’s no solid evidence (yet) of a particularly dramatic turnaround.

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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