Rochester-area job losses soar in April

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The Rochester region’s labor market fell off a cliff last month.

In April, the first full month of the statewide coronavirus lockdown, the Rochester area lost roughly one in five jobs, the state Labor Department reported this morning. Nonfarm jobs decreased by 103,800, or 19.1 percent, compared with April 2019, while the number of private-sector jobs dropped by 98,200, or 21.3 percent.

Across New York, the number of private-sector jobs fell by 1,834,800, or 22.1 percent. It was the state’s largest monthly employment drop on record, the department said. The non-farm jobs count fell by 1,895,100, or 19.4 percent.

The declines in the Rochester region and statewide were sharper than those suffered nationwide. The number of U.S. private-sector jobs dropped by 18,526,000, or 14.5 percent, and nonfarm jobs fell by 19,359,000, or 12.9 percent.

Compared with Rochester, the rate of job loss was higher in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area, lower in the Albany region and roughly comparable in Syracuse.

The preliminary, not seasonally adjusted data are drawn from the U.S. Department of Labor’s business and household surveys for April.

New York’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped from 4.1 percent to 14.5 percent. The 10.4-point change is the state’s largest recorded monthly increase since current record keeping began in 1976, the department said. The number of unemployed New Yorkers increased by 931,600, while the labor force decreased by 307,600; both are monthly records.

Non-seasonally adjusted data provide the best year-to-year comparisons of the same month. By contrast, seasonally adjusted data are used to provide the most valid month-to-month comparison in the same year.

Two separate data sets are used to calculate the job counts and unemployment rates. The number of private-sector jobs in New York is based on a payroll survey of 18,000 New York businesses conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly payroll employment estimates are preliminary and subject to revision. The federal government calculates New York’s unemployment rate based partly on a survey that contacts some 3,100 households statewide each month.

Nearly one-third of the monthly jobs decline statewide occurred in leisure and hospitality, which dropped by 577,700, with most of the losses (-471,400) reported in accommodation and food services. That segment was followed by trade, transportation and utilities (-357,300), educational and health services (-227,200), professional and business services (-190,500) and construction (-167,700).

The May numbers are likely to be grim, too. The latest report on initial unemployment insurance claims, released late Thursday, showed 10,924 new filings in the Finger Lakes region for the week ended May 16, up from 9,203 the week before. That brings the total number of jobless filings in the region since mid-March to 113,802.

The first phase of reopening the Finger Lakes region’s economy began one week ago. However, as the Beacon reported Wednesday, a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research—co-authored by University of Rochester economist Lisa Kahn—states that the labor market collapse was not caused solely by state-at-home orders, and thus lifting the lockdown alone will not bring a rapid recovery.

Another new study contains an even bleaker prediction: more than 40 percent of recent layoffs nationwide will become permanent job losses.

Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor. All Rochester Beacon coronavirus articles are collected here.

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