It’s official: the viral lockdown has been an economic catastrophe of historic proportions for New York State.

The extent of the damage was documented in the monthly employment report released yesterday (unusually, and inexplicably, after normal business hours) by the state Labor Department.

In April, the full first month affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the new data show:

  • New York State lost 1.834 million private-sector jobs on a year-to-year basis, rolling the April total all the way back to a level last seen in 1996.
  • The Empire State’s private-sector employment decline of 22 percent was a full one-and-a-half times the national pandemic-driven job loss of 14 percent.
  • The seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate officially hit 14.5 percent—while the number of new unemployment insurance filings points to a jobless rate approaching 20 percent. The official state rate was statistically indistinguishable from the national unemployment rate of 14.7 percent.

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.


As shown below, after a near-vertical fall, the April private-sector job count is now the lowest for the month in at least 24 years.

screen-shot-2020-05-22-at-9-53-04-am-3057699

Job losses were greatest in the COVID-19 epicenter of New York City, and in the neighboring viral hot spots of Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley.

screen-shot-2020-05-22-at-10-46-50-am-4864542

But while New York City’s private-sector employment has subsided to 2010 levels, the losses in the rest of the state are proportionately worse by historical standards. In every region of upstate except Ithaca and Albany-Schenectady-Troy,  private employment has dropped to its lowest level on record in the 30 years since the current statistical series began in 1990. The same is true for Nassau and Suffolk counties, and for Orange-Rockland-Westchester.

The distribution of losses by major sector was no surprise:

screen-shot-2020-05-22-at-10-40-14-am-7534092

For leisure and hospitality, including restaurants and hotels, the downturn equates to a virtual apocalypse—a job loss of 68 percent. The less severe Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector employment decrease of 23 percent reflects in part the “essential” status granted to grocery stores, hardware outlets and some other retailers during the lockdown. Among the super-sectors, the third biggest percentage employment drop was in the state’s manufacturing sector, already struggling before the pandemic, where April employment was down 19 percent—despite the “essential” exemptions granted under Governor Cuomo’s New York State on PAUSE orders.

As shown below, in a state Labor Department table, the number of new unemployment filings since the mid-March lockdown order is now approaching 2 million New York residents, or roughly 20 percent of the April labor force.

screen-shot-2020-05-22-at-11-07-24-am-3266103

Cloudy outlook

Many of these jobs will be restored in an economic recovery. The Cuomo administration’s most recent financial plan update forecast a total employment loss of 7 percent during the current fiscal year, which ends next March. To hit that estimate, the job total will have to recover 1.2 million jobs in the next 10 months.

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

The Health Department’s FOIL Responses Signal an Indefinite Wait for Pandemic Data

The quest for comprehensive data on New York's coronavirus pandemic hit a bureaucratic roadblock this week Read More

140 State Employees Paid $100,000 or More … in Overtime

State agencies paid out a total of $851.4 million in overtime pay in 2020, an $18.7 million increase from 2019. Read More

A Study of COVID-19 in Nursing Homes Raises Doubt About New York’s Minimum Staffing Law

A newly published study of COVID-19 in nursing homes links larger numbers of employees to higher rates of infection and death for residents – raising fresh doubts about New York's recently enacted "safe staffing" law. Read More

Health Research Inc. Turns Over its Payroll Records Despite Claiming To Be Exempt from FOIL

The full payroll records of more than 2,400 de facto state employees are available to the public for the first time after being released by Health Research Inc. Read More

Emergency Billions Pose Opportunity—and Risk—for NYS Schools

New York schools are to post publicly today plans for spending a huge pile of unexpected and unbudgeted cash. Read More

Report Reveals Albany’s Balanced Budget a Gimmick

Extending the budget window reveals large, yawning budget gaps growing from nearly $8 billion in 2026 to nearly $20 billion by the end of the decade. Read More

The post-pandemic comeback: how far are we from normal?

Now that the COVID-19 "emergency" is in the rearview mirror, how far is New York's economy from its pre-pandemic normal level? Read More

Remote Threat 

Remote work and a more mobile professional class will increase the speed and scope of New York's ongoing out migration. 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!