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 a senior fellow at the Empire Center.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

In Pandemic Recovery, New York’s Tax Base Is More Fragile Than Ever

New York's exceptionally wealthy state tax base is also exceptionally fragile, due to its heavy dependence on the highly volatile (and portable) investment-driven incomes of Wall Street workers and fund managers. Read More

New York’s Private Jobs Rebound Still Trails Most of U.S.

In the seventh month of the coronavirus pandemic, private-sector employment in New York was still recovering more slowly than in other states from the after-effects of the broad spring shutdowns of normal business and social life, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Read More

Mixed September for NY: Job Recovery Sluggish, Tax Receipts Up

Continuing a trend from mid-summer, New York's private jobs recovery slowed a little more in September—but state tax receipts came in a bit stronger than expected, according to two monthly reports released by the state late today. Read More

De Blasio’s (Apparent) Good Move Dissolves Into Phony “Savings”

Late Thursday, as hailed in this space, Mayor de Blasio finally made a decisive move—or at least seemed to make a move—in the direction of actually saving some money on labor costs by getting tough with a powerful (and powerfully self-entitled) municipal union. Read More

‘Clusters’ Drive a Widespread Surge in New York’s Coronavirus Infection Rates

New York's coronavirus infection rates have surged to their highest levels since May, pushing 10 counties – including Brooklyn, Rockland and Orange – above a threshold that the Cuomo administration uses to justify travel restrictions on other states. Read More

Not a Moment Too Soon, Bill de Blasio Is Setting a Good Fiscal Example

After months of flailing, floundering and stalling on desperately needed cuts to New York City's pandemic-ravaged budget, Mayor de Blasio just made a smart and appropriate move to save money—in the process defying one of New York's most powerful government employee unions. Read More

Cahill Charges Are An Indictment Of Cuomo’s Policies

Yesterday’s indictment of the state’s top construction union official on federal corruption charges raises a big question: if private companies are paying bribes to avoid having to work with certain construction unions, why is Governor Cuomo insisting that the state keep doing it? Read More

It’s Official: New York State’s Second Quarter Economic Crash Was the Worst on Record

Further evidence of the massive damage done to New York’s economy by the coronavirus pandemic shutdown has emerged in the latest gross domestic product (GDP) data from the federal Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Affairs. 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.