Measured by COVID-19 cases, New York’s coronavirus crisis has been overwhelmingly concentrated downstate—but upstate has hardly been immune to the consequences of the widespread economic shutdown ordered to contain the spread of the virus.

More than 1.9 million New York State residents have filed for unemployment insurance from mid-March through May 7—fully 15 times the number of new unemployment filings during the same nine-week period in 2019, according to state Labor Department data released yesterday.


This is an installment in a special series of #NYCoronavirus chronicles by Empire Center analysts, focused on New York’s state and local policy response to the Coronavirus pandemic.


The total claims filed during the period would equate to roughly 21 percent of the state resident labor force as of March. In other words, the true unemployment rate in New York as of April was probably close to 20 percent—although the official rate, when released next week, is likely to be lower due to data-gathering glitches and limitations.

As shown in the following table from the state Labor Department’s latest research report, no region has been unscathed.

screen-shot-2020-05-15-at-9-44-29-am-4526024

Unsurprisingly, the largest joblessness surges have been seen in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley, where 1.4 million residents filed for unemployment. These regions accounted for about three-quarters of the statewide increase in unemployment filings on a year-over-year basis.

In upstate New York, which has sustained much more limited COVID-19 outbreaks, the Capital Region has had the biggest unemployment surge since mid-March with a total of 85,200 new filings, up 1,312 percent over last year’s total. The least-worst increase was in the North Country, where the economy is small and more heavily government-dependent. But even that increase, at 876 percent, was far beyond any jobless surge on record.

Cuomo yesterday issued an updated executive order allowing the limited reopening of businesses and public activities in the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, and North Country regions. However, given the tight “phase one” restrictions of Cuomo’s New York State on PAUSE order, it seems unlikely that more than a small share of the 293,000 residents of those regions who filed for unemployment will return to work in the near future.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is a senior fellow at the Empire Center.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

New York Has Widened Its Lead in Per-Capita Spending on Medicaid

New York's per-capita Medicaid spending soared to more than double the nationwide rate in 2018, widening its gap with the other 49 states. Read More

State Pension Fund Lost Money in 2020, Pointing to Higher Costs Ahead

New York State’s biggest public pension lost money on its investments during the fiscal year that ended March 31—a completely unsurprising result, given the coronavirus crisis and its impact on financial markets in early spring. Read More

New York’s Medicaid Enrollment Surges to an All-Time High

New York's Medicaid program is growing at its fastest rate in six years, with a quarter-million additional enrollees landing in the safety-net health plan during the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic.  Read More

Lawmakers Look To Dump More Public Cash On Teamsters

State lawmakers this week moved to make public construction more expensive in a bid to steer work to one of New York’s struggling construction unions. Read More

In Slow Recovery, NY’s Job Drop as of June was Still Among the Worst in U.S.

While New York's economy continued to ever-so-slowly recover in June, the Empire State's year-to-year percentage decline in private employment since the pandemic lockdown remained the worst in the continental U.S., according to the latest payroll establishment data from federal and state agencies. Read More

New York’s Health Premiums Remain Among the Highest in the U.S.

The average cost of New Yorkers' health benefits increased by less than the national average in 2019 but remained among the highest in the U.S., according to recently published federal data. Read More

New York’s Medicaid Roller Coaster Takes an Unusual Turn

The state's Medicaid spending was significantly lower than projected in the first quarter, but that's not necessarily a positive sign for state finances. Read More

AOC’s Favorite State “Billionaires Tax” Bill Would Run Afoul of NY Constitution

Some of New York City's leading progressive Democrats are mounting a campaign to pressure Governor Cuomo into backing a big new "wealth tax" on New York billionaires. 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
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@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.