CNYCA’S COVID-19 Economic Update: NYC jobs resumed their return in February and March after a flat four months

Disclaimer: Content in this article was obtained from NYC Employment + Training Coalition’s (NYCETC) NYC Workforce Weekly and the Center for New York City Affairs (CNYCA) to serve as a resource for job seekers and those who are curious/interested in learning more about the current economy of the workforce.


James A. Parrott, the Director of Economic and Fiscal Policies of the Center for New York City Affairs (CNYCA) at The New School has prepared the latest report of NYC’s economy issued February 2021.

New York City lost 750,000 payroll and self-employed/independent contractor jobs on average between the months of February and December in 2020. The loss for the entire year was the worst single-year city job decline since the 1930s. The partial rebound since last spring has been called a K-shaped recovery for good reason; many in the bottom half of the economy have lost jobs or earnings and are experiencing severe housing and food insecurity, while most of those in the top half of the income distribution retain their jobs, and many have seen their financial assets rise in value. Signs of serious economic distress are multiplying, long-term unemployment is skyrocketing, many of the new jobs emerging are lower quality than the jobs that have been lost, and many of those returning to jobs are only working part-time. The city’s underemployment rate is 25 percent. This report examines the Covid-19 economic and employment impact in New York City at the end of January 2021, assesses the several labor market challenges for the year ahead, and discusses how much and what kind of job growth the city can expect in the year ahead. The report looks at the demographic and industry contours of the job market effects and investigates how the pandemic has exacerbated wage and income inequality.

James A. Parrott

Like the national picture to some extent, jobs have resumed returning in a handful of New York City industries in the past two months. The latest New York City jobs numbers released on April 15th showed a 40,000-gain in March and the February numbers were revised upward by 12,000, to show a 48,000-job gain over January. This follows four months of backsliding after an initial rebound during the late spring and summer months of 2020 from the low point reached last April. Still, the city’s payroll job count remains 585,000 below the pre-pandemic level.

New York City’s 12.5 percent jobs shortfall from pre-pandemic levels is two-and-a-half times the nation’s five percent falloff from February of 2020 to March of this year. Job losses in the city have far exceeded those in the rest of New York State where the decline over the past 13 months has been 7.6 percent. Sixty percent of New York State’s pandemic job losses have taken place in the city, which accounted for 48 percent of all Empire State jobs before the pandemic.

The table below shows the detailed New York City industries sorted into the three categories useful for analyzing the pandemic economy. It indicates the monthly job gains for February and March of this year as well as the extent to which the February-to-April job collapse in the early days of the pandemic has been made up in the months since. Even with the moderate gains in the past two months, New York City has only recouped 37 percent of last spring’s job losses. Only a little more than a third (35 percent) of the 725,000 job losses sustained in the face-to-face industries have been regained. 

While every industry had either job gains or very small declines in March 2021, only six industries had significant job gains in February and March, accounting for over 80 percent of the net job increases during those two months. Food services and drinking places added back over 23,000 during the two months (but were still down by 140,000 compared to last February). Private colleges and universities (part of the private education industry) and local government brought back workers (16,000 and 10,000, respectively) over the past two months after cutting headcount in December and January as the second Covid-19 surge spread. Home health services (within health care) added 8,200 jobs, temp agencies (within administrative services) 8,100, and motion picture production (part of information) 6,100 jobs, with all three industries reaching their highest levels since the widespread pandemic cutbacks. 

The remote-working industries have been much less affected by the pandemic than the face-to-face industries, with a net decline of 6.4 percent vs. 23.5 percent in the face-to-face industries. Nevertheless, finance and insurance has reduced employment slightly since last April and the job rebound in professional, scientific, and technical services has been only six percent. Health care, on the other hand, has regained 88 percent of the job reduction experienced between February-April 2020.

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