The unemployment rate in the New York City-Newark-Jersey City metro area fell to 8 percent in July, cut nearly in half since a year ago as the region mounted a robust recovery in the labor market, the feds said Wednesday.
The metro area booked an unemployment rate of 15.4 percent at the same time last year, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the Bureau of Labor statistics.
But the data released Wednesday comes from before the Delta variant sent daily new cases of COVID-19 surging again, Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, said.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, and we don’t know how these chapters are going to be written in the coming months. As with the nation, the impact of COVID continues to be key,” he said in a telephone interview with The Post.
The New York-area’s jobless rate is still higher than the 5.7 percent national rate of unemployment, but lower than other major cities, including the Los Angeles area, which had a July unemployment rate of 9.3 percent, according to the federal data.
Still, other big cities look to be in better shape, employment wise: The San Francisco area saw an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent in July while the Boston area reported unemployment of 5.3 percent.
But, Hamrick noted, New York City was also hit much harder than those metro areas from the economic fallout of the early months of the pandemic because the Big Apple relies more on tourism and industries like Broadway that were brought to a screeching halt.
Those sectors, along with business travel, have largely yet to come back, He added, which is likely holding back the labor market recovery in New York.
Salt Lake City, Utah, and Oklahoma City had the lowest jobless rates in July, 2.8 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, the feds said, when considering metropolitan areas with more than a million people.
But on a net level, the New York City area added 558,300 new jobs in July from a year earlier, more than any other metro area in the country.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ chief regional economist Martin Kohli noted that the year-over-year job growth in the New York area came in at 6.5 percent, beating the 5.3
percent nationwide figure.
Most of those new jobs in the NYC-metro area, 200,800, came from leisure and hospitality, the area hardest hit by the pandemic.
Education and health services added 125,700 jobs, with most coming from health care and social assistance, the data showed, and professional and business services picked up 81,700 jobs in the area.
But the picture of economic recovery in the New York City area actually isn’t quite as rosy as the federal data shows, James Parrott, an economist at the New School, told The Post.
Parrott prefers data from the New York State Department of Labor, which tracks unemployment data for New York City alone, separated from Newark, Jersey City and the surrounding suburbs.
The state says the NYC unemployment rate dropped to 10.5 percent in July, from 18.5 percent a year earlier.
But the city’s unemployment rate fell only 0.1 percent from the month prior, and Parrott said that was mostly from people dropping out of the labor force, meaning they were likely no longer looking for work.
He added that with COVID-19 cases up, he expects the August numbers to “not look very good for New York City.”
“The picture is that New York City, since early this year, started to regain jobs, and it’s regained jobs along the lines of what the nation has also. The big thing to keep in mind is that New York City last spring was hit a lot harder in the employment decline.”
One factor that could change the unemployment situation both in New York and nationwide is that the federal unemployment benefits program that gave people an extra $300 per week expires next week.
Some business owners and conservative and moderate politicians have blamed that program for keeping workers on the sidelines, but Parrott contends the ending of that program is likely to suck money out of circulation and hurt the economy.
The lapse of those benefits will have the city missing out on $463 million every week, he wrote in a study published last week.