Despite lagging sectors like real estate and construction, the number of jobs in New York City is rising, according to analysis released Wednesday by the Real Estate Board of New York. Much of that gain comes from industries such as retail and hospitality.
At the end of June, total employment in all five boroughs hit 3.87 million, up 2.9% from January, according to REBNY’s analysis of data from the New York state Department of Labor. That rate of expansion actually is slightly above the 22-year average of 2% for the first half of the year.
Michael Slattery, REBNY’s senior vice president, attributed much of the recent uptick to the city’s growing stature as a tourist destination. The number of retail jobs in New York in the first two quarters rose 2.9%—a multiple of the 22-year average retail growth of 0.5% in the period. There are currently 328,700 retail workers in the city. Similarly, the leisure and hospitality industries were among the biggest job growers.
However, though there were job gains in the first half of the year, the city’s unemployment rate still jumped to 10% in June, from 9.7% in May, according to state Dept. of Labor data cited by Crain’s New York Business. The discrepancy between such job growth and unemployment figures has perplexed economists.
“Some opportunities for retailers were created out of the ashes of 2008, and people started to spend more money again,” Mr. Slattery said. He noted that Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 49th streets has seen robust rental activity in recent years, as stores such as H&M, Zara and Urban Outfitters have moved in. The gilded strip of Madison Avenue above East 57th Street has also witnessed a comeback.
Nationally, retail added more than 100,000 new jobs last year, according to Ellen Davis, senior vice president at the National Retail Federation. The industry has also seen 24 consecutive months of year-over-year growth, she added.
“Seeing two years of consecutive growth is encouraging as companies try to determine whether they’re ready to bring back some of the jobs they lost in the recession,” she said.