NYC job crisis worst in nation

With hundreds of thousands of jobs lost between December 2000 and June 2003, New York City has been hit by recession worse than the rest of the United States, according to a new report published by the Fiscal Policy Institute.

“Working America is facing a crisis,” AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a Labor Day speech. “It’s a jobs crisis and it’s the number one issue facing Americans. Despite our so-called recovery, far too many people are out of work, and many have been out of work for a long time.”

The crisis that Sweeney mentions is three times worse for New York City – the city’s job loss rate was 6.4 percent, compared to a national rate of 2 percent, says the report, entitled “The State of Working New York 2003.”

The state of New York lost 265,000 jobs since the recession began. New York City, whose workers make up about 43 percent of the state’s workforce, accounted for 76 percent – about 200,000 – of the jobs lost.

While many of the job losses have been in the “dot.com”-fueled industries – advertising, computers, real estate, consulting – the city’s manufacturing industries, especially apparel, have been hard hit as well. “Through June of 2003,” the report says, “the city’s manufacturing sector had lost 41,000 jobs since the recession’s onset. This represents a 24 percent decline.”

The report does not address the disparities in unemployment by race, although other studies have pointed to consistently higher unemployment rates among African Americans and Latinos. The same undoubtedly holds for New York City.

The effect of the recent recession on New York City is shown by other indicators as well. The report says, “Since January of 2002, the number of homeless men, women, and children sleeping in New York City shelters has increased dramatically. In fact, the year over year increase from January 2001 to January 2002 – from 31,604 to 38,463 people per night – represented the largest one-year increase since the Great Depression.”

The number of people receiving food stamps has jumped by 40,000, or 4.9 percent. Real wages have fallen as well. During 2002, real wages fell by 8.6 percent. This is “the greatest yearly decline in the quarter century for which data is available,” the report notes.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, intensified a recession that had already begun, the report says. “While the economic damage inflicted by the attack was fundamentally different from what we normally associate with recession, it intensified the economic slowdown that had already been under way at the time of the attack.”

As things stand now, the report says, any sort of strong economic recovery does not look likely. “The outlook for job growth in New York City over the short-term is not particularly bright. A return to the high-flying days of the 1990s … is widely acknowledged to be unlikely.”

In contrast to the insistence by Republican Gov. Pataki and President Bush that tax cuts will help create jobs and stimulate the economy, the current crisis has led many labor leaders to call for public works job creation programs.

Sweeney said, “For the same money that Bush spent on millionaire tax breaks, he could have stimulated the economy and created jobs by building roads and schools.”

A full version of the report in pdf form is available at www.fiscalpolicy.org

The author can be reached at