When the federal shutdown ends and monthly employment data is once again released, we will probably find that New York City’s unemployment rate is still high. What is interesting, however, is why it is so high. According to the survey of business establishments, the number of people working at payroll jobs in New York City (including those who commute in) is the highest it has ever been. And according to data based on the survey of households, the number of city residents who were employed in June 2013 was only slightly below the pre-recession level of June 2007, while for the U.S. as a whole the number employed was 1.8 million lower. New York City’s unemployment rate is high because the city’s labor force, including those looking for work but not employed, has soared. In a country that is suffering a far greater economic decline than New York City, the city has become an economic refugee camp with young workers trying to find some economic hope.
But they aren’t earning so much. Before shutting down, the U.S. Census Bureau released American Community Survey data for 2012. The data showed that New York City’s median household income fell 5.5% from 2008 to 2012 when adjusted for inflation. The median work earnings per household fell 6.9%, and since full-time full-year workers showed some modest gains in earnings, the share of workers able to maintain that status must have fallen significantly. Moreover, inflation adjusted mean household income, affected to a greater extent by earnings of the rich, fell 7.7% from 2008 to 2012, showing that even the one percent have not been spared. This is the case nationally as well, according to data cited by this article. Some spreadsheets and additional commentary may be found here on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”