CNYCA’S COVID-19 Economic Update – 09.30.20

Only 29% of lost jobs regained, some industries continuing to reduce jobs; pace of private job recovery slowing

COVID-19 Economic Update is a bi-weekly column prepared by economist James Parrott of the Center for New York City Affairs (CNYCA) at The New School, whose research is supported by the Consortium for Worker Education and the 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund. Read the first installment here. 

New York City has continued to recover jobs, but the pace of recovery has slowed. State Labor Department estimates through August (the latest available numbers) show that only 29 percent of the private jobs lost during March and April had been recovered. Most of the federally funded stimulus support to the unemployed and to distressed businesses has ended, helping to explain why the pace of private job recovery slowed through the summer months. Going forward, we might see some pickup in the pace of recovery related to the gradual return of workers who have been working remotely to Manhattan office buildings and to the resumption of limited indoor restaurant dining beginning September 30, although restaurants will commence such service at a maximum of only 25 percent of capacity. On the other hand, a flurry of what had been temporary worker furloughs back in March and April are being made permanent. A few industries are continuing to lose jobs as employers are unable or unwilling to keep workers on the payroll given the bleak business outlook in many industries, particularly but not exclusively the face-to-face industries.

The table below shows the latest State Labor Department estimates of New York City payroll job levels, along with the monthly changes since April. The second column from the right shows the net February-August change, and the far right column shows the net job falloff in August compared to February.

Key industries, including tourism, air travel, and the arts, remain flattened by health concerns and restrictions, with no rebound in sight. Employment levels are down by 29-62 percent in those industries. Industries that have not seen any job rebound as layoffs continued past April include: government-funded social assistance nonprofits; private educational organizations (all grade levels); and professional and technical services.

The table also shows the net loss of 680,000 payroll jobs through August. New York City has lost an additional 500,000 to 600,000 jobs held by self-employed workers and independent contractors. Altogether, an estimated 1.2-1.3 million New York City residents remain unemployed, a number confirmed by the 2.6 million New York State residents receiving unemployment insurance benefits as of early September. Some of those who have gone back to work are working fewer hours than previously due to slack business conditions; we will explore this issue in a future Economic Update.

For more information, read CNYCA’s three reports on the NYC economic impact of COVID-19.