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March jobs report to show New York recovery lags behind

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Lindsey Knewstub

On Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly jobs report for March 2021.

Russell Weaver, economic geographer and director of research at the Cornell ILR Buffalo Co-Lab, says while the March jobs report is poised to show continued signs of economic recovery, New York state is still lagging behind the rest of the nation.


Russell Weaver

Russell Weaver

Director of Research, ILR Buffalo Co-Lab

“Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the national unemployment rate fell to 6.2% in February 2021, the lowest level since the measure peaked at 14.8% in April 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, the BLS monthly jobs report for March 2021 is poised to show continued signs of economic recovery, fueled by a combination of broader vaccine distribution, fewer restrictions on economic activity, and higher levels of consumer spending—the latter was arguably boosted by the household stimulus component of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

“The consensus among most analysts is that the national economy added more than 600,000 jobs in March 2021, which would be the largest month-over-month jump in employment since early in the fall of 2020. That level of job growth would likely bring the national unemployment rate down to around 6%.  

“While state-level data for March 2021 will not come out until a few weeks after Friday’s national jobs report, it is reasonable to expect New York state’s unemployment rate to remain meaningfully above the national average. Bucking the national trend from last month’s jobs report, New York’s unemployment rate ticked up from 8.8% in January 2021 to 8.9% in February 2021. That slight increase gave New York the second highest unemployment rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  

“Concerningly, data from Opportunity Insights suggest that New York’s recovery is continuing to lag behind the rest of the nation. Through mid-March 2021, job postings in the U.S. were 2% lower than they were prior to the pandemic, in January 2020. For New York state, the corresponding decrease in job postings was 13.7%. Similarly, around one in every 100 members of New York state’s labor force were still making new unemployment insurance claims each week as of mid-March 2021, about one-and-a-half times the national average.

“Recent news of wider vaccine availability and the Governor’s “Excelsior Pass” to fast-track business reopening in New York should help put the state back on a forward-moving track.

“Nevertheless, as scores of analysts have been reporting since early in the pandemic, both the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the slow-moving ‘recovery’ from it have been highly uneven. Low wage workers, workers of color, and women have shouldered the largest burdens of the pandemic both in New York and throughout the nation. As such, it remains imperative that policymakers in New York set a goal not of returning to pre-pandemic employment levels, nor of ‘catching up’ to the rest of the nation with respect to the unemployment rate, but of facilitating an inclusive recovery that seeks to affirmatively address longstanding inequalities that have worsened as a result of COVID-19.”

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