New York Post: NYC’s workforce has shrunk by 300,000 since start of pandemic
By KATE SHEEHY, CARL CAMPANILE and BERNADETTE HOGAN
January 20, 2023 12:27 PM
The Big Apple added jobs at an agonizingly slow pace last month as it struggles to cope with a roughly 300,000-person drop in its workforce since the pandemic, troubling new data reveals
The city’s recent unemployment rate also hit around 6% — close to double the national level — with minorities overwhelmingly suffering the most, according to a study just released by The New School.
“Race and ethnicity have factored heavily in the pandemic’s divergent economic fates, with Black and Latinx unemployment rates twice or more those of white workers,’’ the researchers wrote — noting the pandemic’s “lopsided economic impact on New York workers who can least afford it.’’
The latest employment figures show the city did gain 13,500 jobs for December. But the number still leaves Gotham about 12% short of matching its pre-pandemic level, according to an analysis by The City.
Before the pandemic, Manhattan had 56% of all NYC jobs. It absorbed 75% of the 288,000 jobs lost citywide. Two-thirds of Manhattan’s job losses were in five industries:
The depressing economic indicators only seem to reinforce warnings by Big Apple and state officials that the local workforce won’t completely regain its pre-pandemic strength for several more years.
“New York City got hit early, got hit the hardest, we had some of the strictest COVID mandates, and because we’re so reliant on office workers, tourists and people who are transient workers, we had additional struggles,’’ Andrew Rigie, head of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, told The Post on Friday.
“It’s frightening,’’ he said. “Accommodations, food services are still down — nearly 50,000 jobs are still missing compared to pre-pandemic levels — that’s the size of a small city!’’
New York City lost a total of nearly 1 million jobs in March and April 2020, with the biggest drain occurring in Manhattan. The Big Apple currently has a little more than 4 million workers.
According to the study released by James Parrott, director of Economic and Fiscal Policies for New York City Affairs at The New School, “The city’s job losses as of the fall of 2022 — two-and-a-half years after the pandemic’s onset — stem mostly from the employment decline in lower-paid, face-to-face industries most immediately affected by public health business restrictions and subject to the lingering effects of changed commuting and hybrid working patterns.’’
The Big Apple’s own government workforce took a noticeable hit, suffering its largest decline in employees, or 6.4%, since “the Great Recession of 2008,” said a report released at the end of last year by city Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.
The Mayor’s Budget Office has said it doesn’t expect the city to reach its pre-COVID employment level till the end of 2024. Gov. Kathy Hochul has been even more skeptical, predicting this past summer that it could take to 2026.
The worst-hit city industries continue to be hospitality, retail and construction, while warehouse positions have done the best bouncing back, the study said.
Vijay Dandapani, president and CEO of the New York City Hotel Association, lamented that his industry is still down 13,000 jobs.
That’s “about 42K compared to the nearly 55K in the entire hotel industry pre-Covid,’’ he told The Post by text Friday.
In addition, “We still have 11,000 rooms closed, which is the reason we lag our principal competing cities: London and Paris,’’ Dandapani wrote.
“The closed hotel rooms in NYC, when combined with rooms taken up by migrants, etc.’’ are not enough to surpass 2019, he said, referring to the city’s ongoing crisis as it tries to house the influx of thousands of immigrants crossing into the country from Mexico.
Queens Chamber of Commerce President Tom Grech said his borough’s residents are particularly struggling financially because many of them work in food service and retail, both industries addled by white-collar job losses and work-from-home policies.
The average office occupancy rate has at least risen back up after the holidays to about 47 percent, around what it had been before December, The City said. But it doesn’t look like that figure is set to go higher anytime soon.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Grech said of the relationship between retail and office workers when things go awry.
Grech claimed that city agencies such as Buildings, Environmental Protection and Health haven’t helped the situation, dragging their feet on providing permits and other approvals for businesses that could jump-start the economy.
“The world is not waiting for city agencies to get their act together. People are getting job offers from other states, from the south,” Grech said.
The study’s researchers said the main reason for the city’s workforce decline is people leaving for “the suburbs, upstate or elsewhere.’’
As The Post reported Thursday, more New Yorkers fled to Florida last year than any other year in history.
The study said there is currently a “reshuffling’’ in the city’s job market “akin to a real-life game of musical chairs’’ — and minorities are the ones mainly left without a seat.
“Employer job demands and expectations are changing, and many workers are moving from one employer to another, but scores of thousands of low-wage workers, including many of them Black, Latinx, young, and less educated, remain jobless when the music stops,’’ the researchers said.
The Big Apple’s unemployment rate of 6.1 percent in the third quarter of 2022 was nearly double the country’s overall 3.5% tally, the study said. In the past few years, the two figures had pretty much been aligned, researchers said.
The 6.1% figure also was a massive jump over what it had been in the Big Apple for the first quarter of 2020, or pre-pandemic, when the rate was 3.7%.
Black city residents suffered the highest unemployment rate among people of color, or 9.8%, in the third quarter last year, according to the study and Gothamist. That figure was up from 5.6% before the pandemic.
The jobless rate for city Hispanics hit 7.5%, and Asians and all other residents saw their collective figure rise to 5.3%, a jump from 5.7% and 2.6%, respectively.
Those stats are compared to 3.5 percent for whites, who were at 2% pre-pandemic.
The least-educated also are suffering at a greater rate than others, the study said.
People with no more than a high-school diploma were 25% more apt to lose their jobs during the pandemic, statistics show.
Rigie was hopeful on the jobless front.
“With a high unemployment rate in the city, still, there can be an opportunity to train people,’’ he said.
“The restaurant, nightlife industry isn’t a career for some people, but it’s a way to make money while they are pursuing their dreams or school.”
But Grech said that until the ailing national economy improves, too, it’s hard to see the financial picture getting much better for New Yorkers.
“Inflationary pressures have been acutely felt in New York,’’ he said.
“Seven dollars for a carton of eggs. There’s only so much people can charge for eggs. It bodes poorly for the economy.”