CNYCA’S COVID-19 Economic Update: NYC job losses disproportionately concentrated in Manhattan

Editor’s note: This is part of a regular biweekly Covid-19 Economic Update prepared by economist James Parrott of the Center for New York City Affairs with the support of the Consortium for Worker Education and the 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund. Read past installments here.


To no surprise, New York City’s Covid-19 payroll job loss has been concentrated in Manhattan. But it’s not just because Manhattan had 58 percent of all city jobs before the pandemic. The borough also has very high concentrations of the leisure and hospitality industries hardest hit. Altogether, Manhattan accounted for two out of every three New York City jobs lost between February and September of last year. Detailed borough-level payroll employment data is released with a 6-month lag so data through September only recently became available. Because there has been scant net job growth in New York City since the early fall due to the resurgence in the city’s Covid case rate, the borough data through September afford a fairly good picture of how pandemic-related job losses continue to play out across the city.

As the figure below shows, there was a net decline of 408,500 jobs in Manhattan from February to September of 2020. Queens and Brooklyn each lost about 82,000 jobs or 13 percent of the citywide job decline, payroll employment fell by 26,500 (4 percent) in the Bronx, and Staten Island experienced a decline of 12,100 (2 percent).

Overall for the February-through-September period, payroll jobs fell by 15.6 percent in the city. Manhattan was the only borough with a percentage decline (-17.9 percent) larger than that. See the second figure below.

Despite the signature role that office buildings play in defining Manhattan’s skyline, the loss of office jobs constitutes a small fraction of the borough’s pandemic employment changes. Those office workers may be working remotely, but they still have their jobs. Their absence from Manhattan, on the other hand, has contributed to the loss of jobs in restaurants and retail stores and has dampened the demand for building service workers in the administrative and support services industry. However, the more pronounced impact in eroding Manhattan’s job base has come from the falloff in tourism and the effect of social distancing requirements in limiting activity in restaurants generally, as well as largely shutting down most of the arts, entertainment and recreation industry.

Nearly all (98 percent) of the city hotel employment decline comes from large Manhattan hotels. The table below lists the 10 detailed industries that account for the bulk of Manhattan job losses and indicates that in 7 out of 10 cases, Manhattan’s share of citywide job losses in that industry exceeded two-thirds. Three out of every four jobs lost in New York City in eating and drinking places have occurred in Manhattan, and Manhattan restaurants and bars account for one in every six New York City pandemic job losses.