New York’s jobs report for August looked relatively strong—but only by comparison, that is, with what was generally regarded as a disappointing national number.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, New York gained 28,000 private-sector jobs last month—a growth rate of 0.4 percent, according to preliminary monthly estimates from the state Labor Department. This was double the 0.2 percent estimated growth for the U.S. as a whole, which was barely one-third of reported economists’ projections. However, New York’s performance was in line with its average monthly change this year.

As shown below, private employment in New York—which actually had begun to sag during the year leading up to the pandemic—still is trending far below the nation as a whole.

 

Year-to-year counts

Comparing non-seasonally adjusted data for the month of August to the jobs count for August 2020, private employment in New York was up 384,000 jobs, or 5.4 percent on a statewide basis. This was only slightly better than the national year-over-year growth of 5.2 percent—but because New York’s job base was hit much harder to begin with by pandemic restrictions and lockdowns, it still has much more ground to make up.

The extent of the challenge can be measured by comparing jobs data for August 2021 to the same month in 2019, before the pandemic hit. The Empire State’s private-sector jobs count last month was still down 751,700, or 9 percent, from the August 2019 level. During the same period, the nation as a whole is down a net 3.5 million jobs, or just 2.7 percent. By this measure and others, New York has been the national epicenter of economic decline caused by COVID-19 restrictions: with just 6 percent of the nation’s total population and employment, the Empire State has accounted for more than one-fifth of private-sector job losses since the last pre-pandemic summer peak.

On a regional basis, 80 percent of the Empire State’s net private jobs loss since 2019 has been concentrated in the 12-county Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District: New York City, Long Island and the mid- to lower-Hudson Valley. Job loss rates generally were lower across upstate New York—but even the metro areas least affected by the pandemic recession have experienced employment losses exceeding the national rate.

As shown below in the table captured from today’s Labor Department report, very strong growth in the Leisure and Hospitality sector—which was hit hardest by pandemic restrictions last year—accounted for nearly half the 384,300 private jobs added in the state in the latest 12-month period.  However, there also have been small but troubling dips in employment in the well-paying construction and finance sectors.

New York’s statewide unemployment rate was estimated at 7.4 percent, while the nation dropped to 5.4 percent. Both figures were down a barely significant two-tenths of a percentage point. The components of the unemployment statistic revealed another troubling trend: the number of New Yorkers in the labor force declined, as did the labor force participation rate. In two words: not good.

Looking ahead

The eve of Labor Day (Sept. 5) saw the nationwide expiration of federally subsidized expanded unemployment benefit programs, including $300 weekly bonus checks and unemployment assistance to normally ineligible self-employed, gig workers and the long-term unemployed.  In normal times, at least, this would be expected to provide a strong nudge back into the job market for many who’ve stayed on the sidelines even as “Help Wanted” signs and labor shortages have proliferated across the state.

September, therefore, should be a crucial month for gauging the strength of New York’s recovery. If employment gains remain as weak as they have been relative to national trends, it could be a sign of deeper, persistent weakness in the state’s economy.

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

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

In slow post-pandemic jobs recovery, NY still trails 48 states

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 upda Read More

The debate over Medicaid home-care funding needs a reality check

The push in Albany to boost wages for home health aides is seemingly disconnected from the larger realities of the state’s long-term care system. As they , officials in the home care industry are warning that the state faces an of in-home caregivers Read More

New York Should Restore its Unemployment Fund

New York owes $9.3 billion to the U.S. Treasury for pandemic-related debt that, if left unpaid, will inflict harm on resident businesses for years to come Read More

NY’s October job harvest was bountiful (but labor force still shrinking)

New York just tallied its biggest year-to-year October private-sector job gain on record, according to the state's latest monthly state Labor Department report. Read More

When COVID-19 struck, a lot of the state’s pandemic stockpile was out of date

Much of the material in the state's pandemic stockpile had passed its expiration date when the coronavirus crisis struck in March 2020, according to newly released Health Department records. Read More

Sluggish in September: NY job growth still trails U.S.

New York's employment recovery slowed to a near halt in the crucial month of September, falling further behind the national growth rate in the 18th full month since the pandemic hit in March 2020, according to and federal monthly job reports. Read More

Subscribe

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

CONTACT INFORMATION

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

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

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!