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New York - City jobless rate dips in June to 9.5%

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New York - New York City's unemployment rate fell again for June, data released Thursday from the New York State Department of Labor reveals. The rate for June fell to 9.5% in the city, down from 9.6% the previous month. This represents the sixth straight month of declines.

Meanwhile, the rate for New York state dropped to its lowest level since April 2009, to 8.2%, down from 8.3% in May. The national rate sits at 9.5%.

Though good on its face, the seasonally adjusted numbers for private and public sector jobs bear out the delicate balance that is economic recovery in the city.

The private sector, for instance, lost a total of 1,700 jobs in June, according to real estate brokerage Eastern Consolidated. The bulk of the net decline was caused by sluggish hiring in the retail sector, which added only 600 jobs for the month.

Retail relief, however, might be around the corner.

“We have been getting a string of store opening announcements,” said James Brown, principal economist at the Department of Labor. “Chains such as Target have been expanding rather aggressively in the New York City area.”

James Parrott, chief economist at the liberal-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute, also downplayed the negative retail numbers and suggested that they weren't necessarily a sign of bad times ahead.

“I think it's premature to call that a trend because there had been pretty strong growth so far this year in the retail sector,” Mr. Parrott said. “If there is a very small gain or even a decline, it's still pretty strongly upward.”

He went on to add that recovery in New York could slow, depending upon what happens with consumer confidence nationally, citing the potential federal extension of unemployment benefits as a factor as well.

“It's too early to conclude that the decline in June represents a new trend, but it might,” Mr. Parrott said, “particularly if the effect of not extending unemployment benefits stands. That could dampen consumer spending and move things in a negative direction.”

Whether or not city residents themselves are spending, those visiting New York have been doing more than their fair share to keep the city's economy—and, by extension, Thursday's unemployment numbers—moving in a positive direction. Tourist season is in high gear, and Mr. Brown, the DOL principal economist, said that a big chunk of job growth for the city depends upon how robust this season turns out to be.

“The biggest factors for us are continued recovery in corporate profits and how strong a tourist season we have,” he said, adding that, “On balance, the [current] numbers are positive.”

Restaurants, construction and private education collectively added 7,200 jobs, according to a report released by real estate brokerage Eastern Consolidated. But the clearest signals seem to come from simple observation.

“I would think just from observing the movement on city streets in Manhattan that tourism is pretty strong,” Mr. Parrott said. “I would expect hotel occupancy to stay up and hotel jobs not decline.”

Crain's NY
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