New York’s post-pandemic employment recovery stalled in the final quarter of 2023, with the state ending the year still 76,400 private jobs below its February 2020 level.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, there were 8.26 million people on private payrolls in New York last month, up 5,800 (0.07 percent) over the prior month’s total but virtually unchanged from September, according to the state Labor Department’s latest monthly jobs report. As illustrated below, New York’s job growth trend flattened while the nation’s kept rising, adding 164,000 jobs (+0.1 percent).


Measured on a same-month, year-to-year basis, New York gained jobs at less than half the national rate—with private employment last month up a barely perceptible 0.6 percent (49,200 jobs) over December 2022, while the U.S. employment count was up 1.6 percent (2.18 million jobs). If New York had matched the national trend, private firms in the Empire State would have employed 83,260 more people last month.

On a regional basis, only the Capital Region, Dutchess-Putnam in the mid-Hudson Valley, and smaller non-metro counties managed to exceed the national job gains during the year ending in December. The chronically weak Elmira and Binghamton metros in the Southern Tier both lost jobs (again), as did the usually stronger Ithaca area.

Change in Private Employment, Dec 2022-Dec 2023
by Labor Market

(combined screen-capture from NYSDOL release)

Broken down by industry, New York State lost jobs on a year-over-year basis in every major sector except private education and health care services (+5.7 percent), leisure and hospitality (+3.8 percent) and government (+2.0 percent). The biggest job-loser was the information sector (-8.8 percent), which may in part reflect a sluggish restart to production activity after the September end of the film and TV writers’ strike.

In another departure from the national trend, New York’s statewide unemployment rate increased from 4.3 percent to 4.5 percent even as the national rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent. Unemployment remained higher in New York City (5.4 percent) than in the rest of the state (3.8 percent).

Looking ahead

If the past is any guide, New York’s unimpressive end-of-year job numbers may be revised upward in the state Labor Department’s upcoming annual benchmarking process, in which survey-based estimates are adjusted to reflect the total payroll counts based on unemployment insurance filings. But as the anniversary of the COVID-19 outbreak approaches, the adjustments for the second half of 2023 will have to be fairly large to finally pull the state job count over its pre-pandemic total.

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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