BY E.J. McMAHON
The April count of private-sector employment was estimated at 7.4 million jobs, up slightly more than 1 million jobs from April 2020, which was the darkest period of the pandemic lockdown. After months of sluggish gains, New York’s year-to-year increase in private employment was 15.9 percent, vs. 13.3 percent for the nation as a whole.
As illustrated below, private payrolls rose to roughly the April 2013 level. But there was plenty of room for improvement: the employment total is a little more than halfway back to the April 2019 all-time high of 8.27 million jobs.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, U.S. employment in April was widely portrayed as disappointing, growing by just 218,000 jobs, or 0.2 percentage, over the month of March, when the economic consensus had predicted growth closer to 1 million. Some analysts linked that sluggishness to the impact of extended unemployment benefits on the willingness of workers to re-enter a job market suddenly flush with “help wanted” signs.
In New York State, meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted private-sector job count increased at fully double the national rate: 0.4 percent, or 28,000 jobs, over the March total. To be sure, that monthly rate was not exactly impressive by post-pandemic recovery standards: it was, for example, less than half the 0.91 percent private jobs gain in March compared to February. Growing at an average 0.4 percent-per-month pace, New York’s seasonally adjusted job count won’t get back to the pre-pandemic February 2020 level until the end of 2023.
Measuring year-to-year by region and sector
As shown below, among the state’s largest labor market areas, only New York City—the pandemic epicenter— trailed the national private-sector employment growth rate over the previous 12 months.
On a year-to-year basis, private employment was up more than 20 percent in Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley in the downstate region, and in Buffalo-Niagara Falls and Watertown-Ft. Drum upstate. The worst-performing area of the state was Ithaca (up only 7.7 percent), which may reflect the sluggish return to normal in-person classes and research activities on the Cornell University and Ithaca College campuses.
Looking at industry sectors, more than half the state’s (re)gain of 1 million private jobs since last April was concentrated in sectors that have lost the most during the pandemic: leisure and hospitality, which would include restaurants, and trade, transportation and utilities, including retail stores.
As shown below, New York’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (a statistically much squishier measure) also improved in April. For the first time in a while, the jobless rate outside New York City was lower than the rate for the nation as a whole.
EJ McMahon is the founder of the Empire Center for Public Policy.