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NYC Unemployment Drops for Fourth Consecutive Month

May 21, 2010
Related Topics: Growth, Global Business Issues, Workforce Planning, Latest News
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The New York City economy continued its rapid rebound in 2010 as employers added 15,700 jobs in April and the unemployment rate dropped for a fourth consecutive month, dipping into single digits for the first time since July 2009.

“It’s certainly getting better faster than I thought it would,” said James Brown, principal economist at the state Department of Labor. “Strength this month was quite broad.”

Indeed, the job growth spanned the city economy, with construction adding 2,600 jobs, retail trade rising by 1,400 positions and law firms adding 1,300 jobs, according to an analysis of state Department of Labor data by real estate service firm Eastern Consolidated. Even the securities industry, which was the one blemish on the March employment report, gained jobs in April, adding 500 positions.

Job growth in the city is now outpacing job growth nationwide, according to Barbara Byrne Denhem, chief economist at Eastern Consolidated. “This is remarkable,” she added, “given how the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 froze markets around the world, prompting many to presume that New York’s economy would suffer more than the rest of the U.S.”

The city’s unemployment rate dipped to 9.8 percent from 10 percent, while the state’s jobless rate also dropped slightly, to 8.4 percent from 8.6 percent. The U.S. rate for April was 9.9 percent.

The number of unemployed in the city—at 390,000 for April—is at its lowest level since June 2009.

“It certainly looks like we’re in the recovery phase,” DOL’s Brown said.

Year-to-date job growth in the city now stands at 53,500 jobs, and the net loss in jobs since the August 2008 employment peak has fallen to 131,000 jobs from a high of 184,500 as recently as December, Eastern Consolidated reported.

Despite the recent good news, Fiscal Policy Institute chief economist James Parrott estimates some 400,000 jobs still need to be added to get back to pre-recession levels of employment in the city. In addition, a 5 percent decline in total nonfinancial sector wages in 2009—the worst since the 1970s— will make for a more difficult recovery, he said. Also, while the city is finally adding jobs on a net basis, initial unemployment claims are still about 25 percent higher than they were before the recession hit in 2008, Parrott said.

Another cautionary note: The 1,200-job gain in health services in April did not take into account positions that could be lost due to the closure of St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village. And NBC’s recent announcement that the TV staple “Law & Order” will end its flagship series in New York City could seriously hurt the city’s film and broadcasting industries as well as catering and other related industries, according to the Eastern Consolidated analysis.

“Today’s report makes it clearer that there will be sustained recovery, but we still have a long way to go,” Parrott said.

Filed by Daniel Massey of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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