New York’s labor markets are sliding into the abyss.
It’s a steep drop, with the Empire State’s 9 million-plus workers seeing their wages decline sharply in the wake of the Great Recession. And while many thousands have returned to work since the depths of the 2008 downturn, inflation-adjusted wages have fallen in New York’s rising low-wage economy, an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reveals.
These contractions are erasing more middle-class jobs.
Thomas Loffredo, a wealth manager who watches labor markets, says higher-paying jobs are becoming an “endangered species” in the city and statewide. “The mid-level job market is becoming a no-man’s land,” he said.
The median inflation-adjusted NY wage, for both city and state, declined by 1.8 percent from 2008 to 2013 — and was even steeper from 2010 (when wages actually peaked) to 2013, a drop of 4.4 percent, according to the EPI.
“While the growth in New York City jobs in May is encouraging, we are still waiting for a rebound in inflation-adjusted average weekly pay,” said James Parrott, chief economist at New York’s Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI).
FPI calculates that inflation-adjusted weekly pay in New York City for private-sector employees dipped slightly in the first five months of 2014 from the year before. And it is down a thumping 7.5 percent from the first five months of 2008.
All told, 1.2 million New York City workers earn less than $14 an hour. That’s more than one in three of all the city’s public and private wage and salary workers, including part-time and full-time workers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York City had the steepest annual decline in wages last year — a drop of 3.3 percent — in a study of the 10 largest counties. Seven reported declines.
“What is more troubling,” said economist Barbara Byrne Denham, who covers New York City, “is how a number of industries have barely added any jobs this year … Wall Street continues to face headwinds as judged by Barclays’ recent layoff announcement.”
The fastest-growing occupation in New York is home-care aide — as much a sign of an aging population as an ailing economy. It’s one of the shining stars of New York’s new economy, employing some 145,000 — and it’s no goldmine.
“It is the fastest-growing occupation in the city, with some of the lowest-paid workers,” said Kristi Barnes, spokeswoman for the ALIGN activist group for higher industry wages. “One in seven low-wage workers in New York City is a home-care worker — and that will increase in the next 15 years, when one in five New Yorkers is going to be over the age of 65 and likely need home-care services at some point.”
Home-care workers in New York make on average $18,000 to $21,000 a year, and exploitation is often rife, Barnes says. “Benefits are poor and a lot of jobs lack health insurance,” she added.
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