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In New York City, Pandemic Job Losses Linger

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The darkest days of the pandemic are far from New York City. Masks have been removed, Times Square is packed with tourists, and lunch-his spots in midtown Manhattan have a growing line of business-his-suited employees. Walking around the city, I often feel 2019 again.

But the busy surface masks the lingering scars from the pandemic. While the nation as a whole recently regained all the jobs it lost early in the health crisis, the latest employment data shows New York City is still 176,000 short, among major metropolitan areas. It represents the slowest recovery.

New York depends more than any other city on international tourists, business travelers, and commuters, and their lack of return has forced them to work as bartenders, luggage handlers, office cleaners, and theater ushers. The burden is placed on the workers who correspond to the Most of the lost private sector jobs are concentrated in the hospitality and retail industries. This is the traditional pipeline to a workforce of young people, immigrants and residents without a college degree.

By contrast, overall employment in industries that enable remote work, such as the technology sector, has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

A unilateral recovery threatens to deepen inequality in cities where apartment rents are skyrocketing, with the number of residents receiving temporary government support jumping by almost a third since February 2020. I’m here. An economic recovery that leaves thousands of blue-collar workers behind.

“The real damage here is that many of the industries with the most accessible jobs are still struggling to fully recover,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for Urban Futures, a public policy think tank. It means that there is.”

New York City was hit particularly hard by the first wave of the virus, prompting business shutdowns and the longest and most stringent employer vaccination mandate in the country. One reason New York’s recovery has been slow is that it lost her million jobs in the first two months of the pandemic, more than any other city.

These days, New York City is rapidly getting jobs back. The tech sector actually added jobs during the first 18 months of the pandemic, when almost every other industry contracted.

But job growth in sectors such as hotels and restaurants slowed this summer compared to a year ago, while firms in technology, healthcare and finance added jobs at a faster pace over the same period, he said. The New School’s New York City Center for Problems, according to an analysis by James Parrott, an economist at the University of London.

The city’s unemployment rate was 6.1% in July, while the national unemployment rate was 3.5% for the month.

At the height of the pandemic, 47-year-old Ronald Nibbs was laid off as a janitor at an office building in Midtown Manhattan, where he had worked for seven years. Mr. Nibs, his girlfriend, and his two children were struggling with unemployment benefits and food stamps on him.

He secured a temporary position, but few returned to the office and the work was spotty. Unwilling to change his career, hoping to reclaim his former position, he began drinking heavily to cope with the anxiety of unemployment.

In May, his building finally got him back to work. “When he got that call, he wanted to cry,” Nibs said.

There are now 1,250 fewer office cleaners in the city than before the pandemic, according to Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union.

Last month, New York officials lower their job growth projections It rose to 4.3% from 4.9% in 2022, and said the state’s employment was not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2026. Officials cited continued remote work and the movement of city dwellers out of the state as long-term risks to jobs. level.

The number of tourists visiting New York City this year is expected to recover to 85% of 2019 levels, according to forecasts by NYC & Company.

However, according to the agency, visitors to the city are spending less money overall because those who historically stay longer (businesses and international travelers) aren’t returning at the same rate. It has hit department stores that rely on high-spending foreign tourists and hotels that rely on business travelers to book meetings and banquets.

Ilialy Santos, 47, returned to work this month as a flight attendant at Times Square’s Paramount Hotel, which reopened for the first time since March 2020. A local union, the New York Hotel and Gaming Trade Council, objected to save jobs.

Santos said he has not been able to find work for two years and is behind on his monthly bills. The hotel union paid her landlord $1,000 to cover her rent.

“I’m excited to be back at work, back to normal life, and more stable,” Santos said.

Despite the city’s rising unemployment rate, many employers say they are still struggling to find workers, especially in roles that cannot be done remotely. and has decreased by about 300,000 since February 2020.

Some blue-collar workers who lost their jobs early in the pandemic are now looking for positions that allow them to work from home.

Jade Campbell, 34, has been out of work since the pandemic temporarily closed the Old Navy store where she worked as a sales associate in March 2020. When I got a call from her store in the fall, she was in the middle of a difficult pregnancy and had a son in first grade who was having trouble focusing during an online class. She decided to stay in her home and she applied for various types of government assistance.

Campbell currently lives alone in Queens with no parenting support. Her children are 1 year old and 8 years old. She refused to vaccinate her for Covid-19, a prerequisite for many in-person jobs in New York City. Still, she said, she felt optimistic about applying for a remote customer service position after she commissioned Goodwill NYNJ, her nonprofit, to build her resume. said.

“I have two kids that I know I have to support,” she said. “I can’t really rely on government help.”

At Petri Plumbing and Heating in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, some workers quit because of the city’s policy that private-sector employees be fully vaccinated. The restrictions were the toughest in the country when announced in December 2021, at the end of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term.

Company owner Michael Petri offered to rehire three former workers after Mayor Eric Adams signaled earlier this year that his administration would not enforce the mandate. returned home, another found another job, and a third moved to another state.

With a $50 hourly rate and monthly bonuses, jobs at Petri Plumbing are currently inundated with applicants. Petri said a change from pre-pandemic would be the need to increase the number of applicants without plumbing experience.

The most promising candidates often have too many driving violations to fit into the company’s insurance policy. So I hired a young worker just to let him drive.

“This is definitely one of the most difficult times we have faced,” said Petri, whose family started the company in 1906.

The turmoil has set back the city’s youngest workers the most. The unemployment rate of workers from the age of 16 to her 24 he is 20.7%.

After graduating from high school in 2020, Simone Ward enrolled in community college, but dropped out after a few months, feeling disconnected from her online classes.

Ward, 20, enrolled in the nonprofit Queen’s Community House culinary program and was able to get a part-time job making steak sandwiches at Citi Field during baseball games. But her schedule was inconsistent, requiring her to commute 90 minutes on three subway lines from her home in Brooklyn’s Canarsie neighborhood.

She applied for a data entry job that allowed her to work remotely, but never heard back. She remembered when she interviewed for her job at her Olive Garden restaurant. In that moment, she realized her social skills were deteriorating due to the isolation caused by lockdown.

“I feel like the pandemic has taken me five steps back in life,” she said.

Desiree Obando, 35, left the hospitality industry after 12 years in the restaurant after losing her job at a restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village early in the pandemic. A few months later, when she was told to come back from the group at the restaurant she used to work at, she was already at LaGuardia Community. After dropping out twice, she was returning to school.

She currently has a part-time job at an educational nonprofit that pays $20 an hour, which is cheaper than a hospitality job. But her workplace is near her home in East Harlem, so she can pick up her daughter whenever she catches the virus at school.

Ovando hopes to eventually earn more after completing her master’s degree.

“There’s nothing like a pandemic to put things in perspective,” Obando said. “I made the right choice for myself and my family.

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