Much of the country has shaken off or is close to moving beyond the job losses that followed the instant pandemic recession nearly two years ago—but the pace of New York’s recovery continues to rank near the bottom among the 50 states, according to updated national employment statistics released today.

The latest annual “benchmarking” of preliminary statistics provided a nice bump-up to the Empire State’s seasonally adjusted count of private-sector jobs, excluding the self-employed and farm payrolls, as noted here last week.

But even with that adjustment, as of January only Hawaii remained further below its February 2020 employment level.  As shown on the rollover map below, the only state to fall even within a percentage point of New York’s decline was tiny, atypical Vermont. All of New York’s other neighboring states were much further along on the road to recovery—with New Jersey in the strongest position, down just 2.2 percent from the pre-pandemic level.


Bringing up the rear

Nationwide as of January, private-sector employment was down 1.6 percent from February 2020 on a seasonally adjusted basis.  In 13 states, job count had risen above pre-pandemic levels—with the strongest gain recorded in Idaho, where employment was up 5.5 percent from the February 2020 level. Five states were within a single percentage point of a full jobs recovery, and four more were within two percentage points.

Among the Empire State’s most populous peers, employment in January was up 1.6 percent in Florida and 1.2 percent in Texas compared to February 2020. The job count in California was still below the pre-pandemic level, but by less than half as much (-2.5 percent) as in New York.

The table below compares New York’s employment changes by major industry sector between January 2020 and January 2022  (The data are not seasonally adjusted because sector-level data are not seasonally adjusted in all states.)

As shown below, New York’s decline has been especially severe in the construction sector, where it accounts for two-thirds of jobs lost nationally since before the pandemic, and in all other sectors except Information (including publishing and media), the only sector with a gain in New York exceeding the national trend, and Government, where New York’s net loss was somewhat less than the national trend. Note, also, that the Empire State had one of the nation’s worst job declines in three well-paying sectors: Financial Activities, Professional and Business Services, and Manufacturing.


About the Author

E.J. McMahon

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

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

Labor Day snapshot: payroll employment in New York still a tale of two states

Over the past three years, the Empire State's recovery has been steady but slow, moving payrolls back to within three percentage points of the 2019 pre-pandemic level Read More

“Protecting” Low Wage Workers — From Employment

As Labor Day weekend arrives, another push by Albany legislators to hike the state minimum wage is gaining steam. Read More

NY pandemic recovery update: climbing, but still far behind

Private employment in New York State remained more than 300,000 jobs short of the pre-pandemic level Read More

The dangers of Governor Hochul’s endless ’emergencies’

Last week, Governor Hochul extended one of her two pandemic-related emergency orders into its ninth month – an action so routine and non-urgent that her office issued no press release. Five days later, an expose in the Times Union showed why casually overusing emergency powers can be a bad idea. Read More

Mission Creep Could Worsen NY’s Education Woes

American schools are dealing with an unprecedented mental health crisis spurred, at least in part, by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated school closures Read More

New York still lagging nation’s employment recovery

The national economy just missed a big milestone in May, when total private employment finally would have surpassed the February 2020 pre-pandemic level. Read More

Pandemic deaths in New York nursing homes show no correlation with staffing levels

Nursing home staffing levels remained an unreliable indicator of Covid-19 risk for residents through the second year of the pandemic. Read More

DiNapoli audit diagnoses the Health Department’s chronic conditions

A penetrating new audit of the Health Department's pandemic response makes clear that problems at the agency run much deeper than its misreporting of nursing home deaths. Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries:

Press Inquiries:


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!