The Bureau of Labor Statistics released rebenchmarked Current Employment Survey data, with 2019 annual average data (the average of all 12 months), last week. While it seems as if it were ancient history, it is worth looking at this data now, because it shows how New York State benefitted from a massive employment boom from the peak of the prior economic upturn in 2008 to what seems certain to be the peak of the expansion that just ended in 2019. An employment boom that dwarfed the increase from 2000 to 2008, and exceeded the U.S. average in percent gains, even though New York is a slow population growth state. A boom that was concentrated in New York City.
And yet by the end of 2019 the City of New York, the State of New York, and the MTA were already facing budget crises. Service cuts, tax increases, fee increases and deferred maintenance to the point of a future drastic infrastructure decline were already on the table. And now, no doubt our elected officials and the special interests they represent will use the coronavirus and an excuse for all of the above. They should not be allowed to get away with it. Just as the business crisis was caused not by the virus, but rather by all the debts businesses piled up to pump up stock prices and executive pay, as everyone across the ideological spectrum seems to be saying (the subject of my prior post). So the fiscal crisis was coming one way or the other, due to similar heists over the past 25 years.
I have long wondered if and when New York’s young workers, tired of low wages (or permanent freelancing or “internships”), squeezed by rising rents into living more than one to an apartment or even a room, faced with higher taxes that contribute to those rents, facing squeezes on the subway and diminished public services, would decide they have had enough. And realize there will be no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow like the ones prior generations received. No rent regulated or Mitchell Lama apartment, no owner-occupied unit purchased outside a housing bubble or at an “insider” price in a conversion, no stable job with benefits, no improving schools. Just higher taxes and deteriorating services to pay for those dead and gone or retired to Florida.
I have wondered if, at some point, the incredible inflow of hundreds of thousands of young workers to New York City that I chronicled here
All of the many available measures of employment show a stunning increase in the number of people working in New York City during the past 15 years, far reversing all the jobs lost in the 1970s. One of the least cited measures is employment based on the now-defunct Census of Population long form and American Community Survey, which among other things ask workers where they work. This data is generally tabulated based on where people live, but when tabulated by place of work it is the most accurate measure of employment at the local level. Administrative records and surveys of organizations often place the employment for multiple establishments at a single location, either the headquarters or even an accountant’s office. Government agencies are particularly bad at reporting where their employees are. And most measures of private sector employment only include wage and salary employees, whereas a rising share of the workforce is self-employed – particularly in New York City.
Place of work data from surveys of households, as reported by the workers themselves, shows that the number working in New York City fell from more than 3.5 million in 1970 to slightly over 3.3 million in 1980. After increasing by more than 410,000 during the 1980s, to more than 3.7 million in 1990, the number of people working in the city increased little during the 1990s, as the deep early 1990s recession nearly offset the substantial late 1990s boom. By 2010, however, the number of people working in New York City had soared to 4.25 million, an increase of nearly 500,000 since 2000, and it has likely continued to soar since.