NEW YORK CITY—There was some good news and some disheartening trends on the New York State labor force in a recent economic report authored by the New York State Comptroller. While unemployment is down sharply from the Great Recession, the downstate economy is faring much better than upstate New York.
According to a recent report released by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. Napoli, New York State ended 2016 with more than 9.1 million New Yorkers employed, the highest level since 2008.
However, the report also noted that regional job growth remains uneven, with downstate markets experiencing higher employment growth than upstate.
“New York’s diverse workforce is a key strength as we compete in today’s global economy,” DiNapoli says. “Statewide, employment is growing and unemployment shrinking. But ensuring good job opportunities for all New Yorkers remains a challenge.”
New York State’s overall unemployment rate stood at 4.8% at the end of 2016, the lowest rate since 2017.
However, a closer look at the jobs stats points to a downstate vs. upstate scenario. “In areas such as New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley and the Capital Region, declining unemployment has been accompanied by increases in the number of people employed,” DiNapoli states in the report. “But in much of upstate New York, falling unemployment rates over the past five years did not translate to more people working—instead, employment counts went down as well. These important metrics of our economy can decline at the same time if the overall workforce is shrinking, as we have seen in some areas of the state.”
Long Island had the highest labor force participation rate of any region in 2016, at 63.8%. Participation rates in the Capital Region and the Hudson Valley also topped 60%, followed by New York City at just under 60%.
The workforce participation rate statistic has been troublesome for some time in New York State.
“New York’s labor participation rate has lagged the national rate over the past 10 years and has exhibited a more erratic trend,” the report notes. “Unlike the national picture, the participation rate in New York rose slightly during the two years that encompassed the Great Recession. However, as the recession ended, New York’s rate declined, similar to the national trend. Over the next five years, participation in the labor force in New York averaged 61.2%. In 2016, New York had one of the lowest participation rates in the nation at 60.4%a ranking of 40th overall. The national labor force participation rate at the end of 2016 stood at 62.8%.
The total number of employed workers declined in the Southern Tier, the North Country, the Mohawk Valley, Central New York and Western New York from 2011 to 2016.
Other key metrics from the report include that as of 2016 there were more than 913,000 New Yorkers unemployed, marginally attached to the labor force or working part-time for economic reasons. The report also noted that the state and national workforces are aging. The number of workers aged 65 and over rose by 26% in New York over the past five years, compared to a 19% increase nationwide.
Also, statewide, women constituted nearly 48% of the labor force, slightly higher than the national average.