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Report Shows New York’s Job Base Has Been Decimated By The Pandemic

Those who follow business agree rebuilding New York's post-pandemic economy will be a major challenge.
The losses are extensive: nearly 2 million private sector jobs, gone, the unemployment rate skyrocketing. EJ McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany, says the lockdown prompted by COVID-19 "has been an economic catastrophe of historic proportions for New York," which he says lost 22 percent of private sector payroll jobs.

"Our job losses were 50 percent worse than the national average. And remember this is for a month in which most of the country, all but seven states, had similarly broad lockdowns and stay-at-home orders in effect through all of April. So this is not something that reflects the intensity of COVID cases in New York and particularly in New York City, which we all know was the worst in the world at a certain point. This is the economic impact of the shutdown order and the stay-at-home orders. And while the whole country was under a similar set of orders for most of April, New York had a far worst job loss than any state."

McMahon says only California lost more jobs in total. Half of New York's loss was in the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants, entertainment venues and hotels. That sector lost 68 percent of its jobs. Retail trade dropped 23 percent, a number McMahon attributes to the fact that many businesses deemed "essential" included outlets such as hardware stores, grocery stores and "big box" retailers.

"The manufacturing sector, which was struggling in New York before the pandemic, lost 19 percent of its jobs, even though quite a few manufacturing operations managed to get themselves classified as 'essential.' So it would have been even worse without those designations. We lost 19 percent of our manufacturing jobs. Those are going to be hard to recapture and recreate. So in general the trend was very bad and then there's another aspect of the trend which is regional. New York City lost almost 900,000 jobs and basically employment in New York City has dropped back to the level of 2010, right after the recession. New York City had been booming in the last 10 years, and basically all the jobs created in the job boom essentially have been lost or wiped out in New York City."

Miriam Dushane, Managing Partner at Alaant Workforce Solutions, says there are some rays of hope for recovery, as hiring has begun to pick up over the last two weeks.

"So over the past few weeks hiring is beginning to pick up in some areas, even though there's a lot of economic uncertainty, employers are still moving forward with some hiring. As the reopening of business expands that should continue to increase assuming there's not a significant rise in COVID-19 cases. So the job market did take a major hit over the last couple of months, but there are many industries that actually continued to hire because they had increases in those areas including Information Technology, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, manufacturing and some service industries including grocery stores. One thing to keep in mind is the job market had been extremely tight prior to the pandemic. So employers should continue to recruit talented individuals to fill key positions in their organizations. The unemployment numbers are high, but in many cases the people that are unemployed actually aren't meeting the needs of the jobs that are available in the marketplace."

McMahon concludes many jobs eventually will be restored in an economic recovery. But many municipalities have been impacted by the halt in commerce and have had to slash budgets and reduce their workforces as they stare down a fiscal crisis the likes of which they've never seen.

"The outlook is pretty challenging, even if you don't consider the risk that there will be a second wave of infections that cause some level of renewed lockdown and and reduction in business activity and renewed stay-at-home orders. If that happens, you could knock the recovery back several steps and have to start all over again in some regions. So I think that's that's a real danger as well."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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