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 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

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

The Health Department’s response to a FOIL request for nursing home data triggers 2020 déjà vu

Despite Governor Hochul's promise of transparency, the Health Department keeps responding to requests for COVID data with tactics from the Cuomo administration Read More

Hochul’s Emergency Order Imposes Insurer Restrictions Sought by Hospital Group

Buried in Governor Hochul's emergency order on health-care staffing is a temporary bar against insurance companies challenging claims submitted by hospitals–and an influential hospital association is taking credit. Read More

Home Care Agencies Project Widespread Staffing Shortages in the Next Phase of New York’s Vaccine Mandate

Agencies providing home-based care to elderly and disabled New Yorkers face a large-scale loss of employees when the next phase of the state's vaccine mandate takes effect on Oct. 7, according to a newly released industry s Read More

Remembering the scandal that brought down Health Commissioner Howard Zucker

The resignation of Dr. Howard Zucker as state health commissioner marks the end of a term marred by scandal over his role in managing the coronavirus pandemic. The much-debated compelling nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients, though it origi Read More

As leaves turn, NY’s post-pandemic recovery still has very far to go

New York was the national epicenter of the pandemic, and Governor Cuomo's "New York State on PAUSE" business shutdowns and other restrictions led, in short order, to the loss of nearly 2 million jobs in the first full month after the infection began spreading in the New York City area. 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!