New York City’s still working it!
Employment expansion in 2019 kept pace with the prior two years, despite fears of a looming downturn, a new report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found. The growth owed to continuing strength in health care hiring, business services, social assistance and the overarching field of technology—which made up for weakness in traditional city industries such as construction, real estate, hospitality and finance.
“The strong employment trends have helped boost personal income and sales tax collections, making it easier for the city to afford new services and to balance the budget,” DiNapoli said. “Still, some sectors have lost jobs in the past year or seen growth slow.”
Health care accounted for 40% of the 87,200 jobs created citywide, with home care services powering the boom. But the comptroller noted that home health workers are among the lowest-paid employees in the industry. And the news comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo contemplates changes to the state’s troubled Medicaid system, which currently pays people to care for their ill loved ones.
New York City added 12,300 social assistance workers in 2019, the largest number of them providing care for the elderly and people with disabilities. Business services—attorneys, accountants, computer programmers and clerical workers—made up 17% of the five borough workforce last year, though job creation in the sector was the slowest recorded since 2015.
DiNapoli noted that the tech sector, which comprises elements of the older business services, information and manufacturing fields, added 8,900 positions in 2019. This brought the total number of workers in the burgeoning industry to 150,100—the highest on record.
The Democrat attributed the city’s record-low unemployment to job creation in the outer boroughs, a phenomenon unique to the new millennium. At the same time, weakness in particular sectors appears concentrated in Manhattan.
The hospitality sector, comprising restaurants and hotels, shed 3,300 jobs last year. This is less than the 4,600 positions dropped in 2018, but well off the leisure scene’s robust performance in the preceding eight years. But DiNapoli found, in the case of eateries at least, that the business closures and corresponding job losses mostly took place in Manhattan.
Strangely, the total number of hotels and motels in operation citywide increased in 2019, but the number of jobs they offered in aggregate shrunk.
Construction added a measly 300 jobs in 2019, the industry’s weakest performance since the Recession. And financial activities—encompassing real estate, securities and insurance—lost a net 2,800 jobs, despite a spike in retail and commercial banking employment. The drop-off was starkest in real estate, which saw its headcount fall by 1,800.
Payrolls in the securities sector contracted by 1,300 positions, which DiNapoli highlighted as especially concerning due to the field’s high salaries and correspondingly high tax contribution.