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Unemployment Rate Jumps As More New Yorkers Seek Jobs

In a sign of an improving employment climate, the pool of workers looking for employment is growing — even as investment banking giant Goldman Sachs makes layoffs.

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Workers make their way past the Stock Exchange, Oct. 20, 2021.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

New York City’s unemployment rate jumped by more than half of a percentage point in August — and ironically, it is a sign of an improving job market. Meanwhile, the city’s long slog to recover all the jobs lost in the pandemic continues.

The jobless rate in the city rose to 6.6% from 6.0% last month, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday, because more people began looking for work in August than earlier in the summer.

The increase may be a sign that rising prices are forcing some people who had been able to cover expenses without a job to now seek traditional employment. It also means there will be more applicants for jobs employers say they haven’t been able to fill.

The Labor Department determines the unemployment rate by dividing the number of unemployed by the number of people in the labor force. But it counts as unemployed only those who have actively looked for work in the past four weeks. When people start looking again, they are counted as unemployed until they find a job — pushing up the jobless rate.

The city added only 16,500 jobs in August, leaving New York 161,600 jobs below the pre-pandemic record of 4.715 million while the nation has now exceeded the number of jobs before the pandemic.

A Disappointing July for Tourism

The tourism rebound in New York faltered in August, most likely because the soaring dollar has made travel to Europe very affordable, according to the monthly economic update from the city comptroller.

Trouble on Wall Street

Goldman Sachs will be laying off several hundred employees in the next couple of weeks in what is expected to be a wave of job cuts from banks and investment banks, still the city’s most important economic sector. The moves are the result of sharply plunging profits as the stock market correction has led to a plunge in lucrative initial public offering and merger work.

Slow Return to the Office

New York metro area office occupancy increased by 3 percentage points, to 38%, in the week after Labor Day, according to the latest data from the office security company Kastle, though it remains below the 43% mark reached in the late spring.

Major employers report that just about half of their workers are in the office on an average weekday, according to a survey of 160 companies released Thursday by the Partnership for New York City. However only 9% come in five days a week. The share of fully remote workers dropped to 16% in mid-September from 28% in April.

Next week’s Kastle data is likely to show a major bounce as investment banks like Jeffries mandated more time in the office at the end of last month, while the Goldman Sachs layoffs seem sure to spur Wall Street workers to head back to Midtown and Downtown, fearful that if they do not they will be the first to be let go. Meanwhile, media organizations like the New York Times faced pushback as they tried to order more workers to return.

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