Comptroller Stringer Analysis: City Unemployment Rate Rises to 18.3 Percent in May
Data reveals rising unemployment among communities of color and young people in New York City; Comptroller urges Washington to provide swift federal aid
Stringer: As our country and our city look toward reopening, we cannot leave behind the small businesses and workers that keep our economy running.
New York City’s unemployment rate rose from 15.8 percent in April to 18.3 percent in May, bucking indicators of a potential national economic rebound according to an analysis of the city’s employment situation released today by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
Comptroller Stringer’s analysis found that New York City’s economy may have a long road ahead as over 900,000 fewer New Yorkers were working in May than in February, with 534,000 newly unemployed since then and more than 381,000 workers dropping out of the labor force altogether. The data also revealed that communities of color and young people under the age of 24 have been particularly hit hard by job losses.
“The latest data on the city’s unemployment situation are alarming and further underscores the urgent need for swift, robust federal support,” said Comptroller Stringer. “Communities of color and young people are bearing the brunt of our unemployment crisis; we need Washington to recognize the enormous scale of the losses we’ve suffered and get New York City the financial aid it needs. The federal government should extend the pandemic unemployment compensation benefit of $600 weekly while the COVID-19 continues to threaten lives and livelihoods. Here at home, there are a number of actions we can take to provide immediate relief. First, the City should restart our stalled capital program as a means of generating good-paying jobs, expanding the workforce, and meeting our growing infrastructure demands. We need to increase and streamline opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses who have suffered the most during the city’s slowdown, and restore the Summer Youth Employment Program so our children have viable pathways toward success. As our country and our city look toward reopening, we cannot leave behind the small businesses and workers that keep our economy running. We are the nation’s economic engine, and I urge Congress and City Hall to marshal our resources and stand up for New York City.”
The Comptroller’s analysis found the following:
Unemployment Continues to Rise
The City’s overall unemployment rate increased from 3.5 percent in February to an unprecedented 18.3 percent in May according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) — with even higher rates among men, Asian-Americans, Latinos, and African-American New Yorkers. Roughly one out of every 4 workers of color are currently unemployed.
Change in NYC Employment, February 2020 to May 2020
= Labor Force
Civilian Non-Institutionalized Population
Labor Force Participation Rate
SOURCE: Office of the Comptroller from Bureau of Labor Statistics.
NOTE: Seasonally adjusted.
Data released by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), which unlike the BLS data is not seasonally adjusted, shows a citywide unemployment rate of 19.9 percent. CPS data also indicated that the unemployment rate among men rose from 3.5 percent in February to 21.5 percent in May, while the rate for women rose slightly less sharply to 18.1 percent. Among Asian-American New Yorkers, the rate increased from 3.4 percent in February to 25.6 percent in May. The rates for Latinos rose to 25.1 percent and for African-American New Yorkers to 23.5 percent.
Change in Unemployment Rate, February to May, by Demographic Group
Young People Suffer the Highest Increase in Unemployment
The unemployment rate among young people, ages 16 to 24, has skyrocketed — rising to a staggering 35.2 percent from its pre-pandemic rate of 6.6 percent. The unemployment rate among workers 55 and older rose from a pre-pandemic rate of 3.1 percent to 14.1 percent.
Change in Unemployment Rate, February to May, by Age Group
Immigrant Unemployment Rate Rises Sharply
The City’s foreign-born population has experienced a rise in unemployment in May to 23.3 percent, an increase of 19.7 percent above pre-pandemic levels. A significant part of these workers are undocumented foreign-born workers who have been excluded from receiving unemployment benefits provided under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
Asian-American immigrants experienced a sharp increase in unemployment, up from 4.6 percent in February to 26.3 percent in May. The sharpest increase was among Latinos, nearly a third of whom — 30.8 percent — were unemployed in May, a staggering figure up from just 3.3 percent in February. This stands in sharp contrast to just back in February when Latino immigrant New Yorkers had the lowest unemployment rate of all immigrant groups. Foreign-born Black New Yorkers had the lowest increase in unemployment among all foreign-born groups with an unemployment rate of 15.9 percent in May, up from 5.5 percent in February.
Change in Unemployment Rate, February to May, Foreign-Born Workers
Sharp Drop in Labor Force Participation
The city’s lockdown dramatically increased the number of people not in the labor force — with the biggest change among those who report “other” reasons than retirement, disability, school, or home care responsibilities. The City’s labor force participation rate dropped an unprecedented 7.6 percentage points since February, from 61.5 percent to 53.8 percent. In contrast, U.S. labor force participation declined from 63.4 percent in February to 60.8 percent in May.
Labor force participation experienced significant drops among every demographic group including men (6.7 percent), women (8.5 percent), foreign-born workers (6.7 percent), African-Americans (12.6 percent), Asian-Americans (10.6 percent), Whites (7.1 percent) and Latinos (2.7 percent).
Change in Labor Force Participation Rate, February to May, by Demographic Group
Comptroller Stringer outlined the following recommendations:
At the federal level:
Extend the $600 weekly unemployment benefit under the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program beyond its current expiration next month
Provide desperately-needed general fiscal relief to state and local governments, who continue to face the urgent service needs of their residents without adequate resources
At the local level:
Restore the Summer Youth Employment Program, which was cut by the de Blasio administration in April. This would provide income and job opportunities to 75,000 City youth and mitigate the extremely high unemployment rate among youth
Restart the stalled capital program as a means of generating good-paying jobs, expanding the workforce, and meeting our growing infrastructure demands
Increase and streamline opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses who have suffered the most during the city’s slowdown
To read Comptroller Stringer’s analysis of the city’s employment figures, click here.