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City Jobs Recover Nearly to Pre-COVID Levels

Updated state figures show almost 4.7 million jobs, surpassing projections.

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Restaurants are one of the sectors gaining back numbers of workers.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Here is your March economic recovery update from THE CITY. We publish a new analysis of the city’s employment, job and fiscal indicators each month.

New York City has not regained all the jobs lost in the pandemic, but new numbers released Thursday show that the city gained far more jobs last year than believed and is within striking distance of a complete recovery from the pandemic shutdown.

Employment increased by 235,200 in 2022, to nearly 4,679,000, according to revised data from the state Labor Department — about 40,000 more jobs than preliminary data for 2022 had indicated. With a January uptick of 32,000, New York has regained 96% of the lost jobs, 8 percentage points more than previously counted.

The department originally reported monthly employment based on a survey of 180,000 employers statewide, about half of which are in the city. Every March it then revises the numbers using more extensive unemployment insurance tax data.

The most significant revisions came in leisure and hospitality — including restaurants and bars, catering halls and food markets — and health care.

“This is a really great jobs report,” said Rahul Jain, the state deputy comptroller who concentrates on New York City issues. “Strength in revisions in the leisure and hospitality sector isn’t unexpected given we were bringing up the rear nationally, but the health care sector revisions and continued growth in recent months are really strong and aligned with regional job openings.”

The nation as a whole has regained all the jobs lost in the shutdown and added about a million more. The new numbers suggest the official forecasts from the mayor, comptroller and Independent Budget Office that the city will not completely recover until late 2024 are too pessimistic.

More Seek Work

The city’s unemployment rate ticked up to 5.3% from 5.1%, with the increase due to more people looking for work.

People are counted as unemployed only if they have actively looked for work in the past month, so economists regard a decision to job hunt as a sign that workers on the sidelines believe they can find a job. The increase may also indicate that fears of catching COVID are ebbing and that child care is more available, two factors that kept New Yorkers from seeking employment.

Where Office Occupancy is Strongest

The latest data from the office security company Kastle shows that office occupancy has weakened slightly in the New York region in recent weeks. 

But a new survey from the Real Estate Board of New York illustrates the emerging divide in the office market. The best and newest office buildings (called Class A) boast the highest activity while older buildings (called Class B or even Class C), with out-of-date elevators and energy systems, are having trouble convincing workers and visitors to return.

The REBNY survey released last week is based on Placer.ai location data that tracks visits rather than tenant occupancy. It shows that Class A office buildings’ visitation rate increased to 66.3% last year or pre-pandemic levels while Class B buildings hit only 53.6%. The rate for 2021 was comparable for both classes of buildings.

The REBNY report adds evidence to the conventional wisdom in the real estate industry that new Class A space will continue to be in high demand even though they charge the highest rents. Meanwhile older office buildings may become candidates for conversion to residential use.

 

 

 

 

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