While Bronx slashed unemployment rate, wage increases crawled over past year

The Bronx had the highest unemployment rate in the nation during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its September 13.9% unemployment rate remains the highest of the five boroughs.
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Bronx County has managed to nearly slice its unemployment rate in half as it entered the month of September, according to data released by the state’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Bronx had the highest unemployment rate in the nation — 24.6% in June 2020 — during the height of the pandemic, and their unemployment rate of 13.9% remains the highest of the five boroughs.

Recent labor stats also show that Bronx wages have not increased significantly over the past year. The Bronx only saw a 3.5% increase in over-the-year increases in average weekly wages, which is second-lowest –to Queens — among the boroughs.

According to first-quarter 2021 statistics, the Bronx totaled a weekly wage of $1,108, which is higher than Richmond and Kings counties, but still lower than the first-quarter national average of $1,289.

In New York City, leisure and hospitality were the hardest hit sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic. By comparison, the wage average in Manhattan was up 21% over the year, but no particular industry had that big of a gain, labor statistics show. Rather, according to region economist Bruce Bergman, it was due to a combination of a large employment loss in a low-paying industry, leisure and hospitality, combined with wage increases.

“In the Bronx, the leisure and hospitality industry is less prevalent than in Manhattan. Not only that, but the make-up of the sector in the two boroughs is different,” Bergman said.

Performing arts and accommodation businesses are much less common in the Bronx, which economists figure is the reason why the borough’s leisure and hospitality employment may not have declined as much as it did in Manhattan. Bronx payrolls also declined by 6.9%, compared to a loss of 14.7% in Manhattan.

Although education and health services are twice as prevalent in the Bronx as in Manhattan and throughout the nation, the borough was unfortunately not immune to employment loss. Nationally, education and health services lost about 4% of its payroll employment; and unadjusted data from the quarterly census shows about a 6% loss in the Bronx, which was less than what occurred in Manhattan and in Staten Island.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes.

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