Restaurant, retail and recreation sectors continue to struggle during pandemic: State Comptroller

An employee works inside of a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in New York
An employee works inside of a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in New York, U.S., Feb. 6, 2017.
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New York City’s restaurant, retail and recreation sectors continued to struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic, even before the latest surge in cases, with 169,700 fewer jobs in November than from two years ago, according to a report released by State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli.

The report says the losses accounted for 41 percent of total private sector jobs lost in the city during the pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many businesses in retail trade, accommodation and food services, and arts, entertainment and recreation closed,” the report says. “These sectors are also experiencing a longer period of COVID-19 restrictions and depressed activity due to the nature of their operations and concerns over virus transmission.”

The report says reduced economic activity has had an outsized effect on New York City, the nation’s initial epicenter of the pandemic, from jobs to wages to real estate, with some of the most significant impacts affecting the restaurant, retail and recreation (RRR) sectors.

The RRR sectors lost an average of 48 percent of their work forces between the first and second quarters of 2020, while the accommodation and food services sector lost 64 percent, the report says.

By comparison, it says the private sector overall lost 21 percent in the City.

NY State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli.  Danielle Jones

In response, the report notes that a number of federal programs were established or expanded to aid affected businesses in these sectors, first through the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Impact Disaster Loans.

Continued closures and revenue losses led the federal government to create specific relief programs for restaurants, through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and for entertainment venues, through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants.

The report examines the damage the pandemic has inflicted on the RRR sectors, and considers the distribution of federal funds for businesses in the City, particularly for businesses in low- and moderate-income communities and in historically underutilized business zones.

“While approaches to targeting federal funding have improved, the City and the State have already recognized that they need to do more to assist the City’s disadvantaged businesses,” the report says. “The state of these sectors suggests support may be necessary for some time for them to fully recover.”

Currently, the report says New York City’s overall economic recovery continues to lag behind the nation’s.

For example, it says the City lost a higher share of jobs (of all sectors) between the second quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2021 than any of the other five most populous counties in the nation, which overlap all or in part with the largest cities in the nation.

About 10 percent of the jobs lost in the nation over the period belonged to the City.

Even more striking, 62 percent of the jobs lost in the State were New York City jobs, the report says.

In terms of the RRR sectors, it says the City accounts for about 67 percent of the lost jobs in the State and about 9 percent of those in the nation over this period.

“While the RRR sectors in the City have regained some employment as of the second quarter of 2021, they have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels,” the report says. “Moreover, compared to the State and the nation, the City’s economic recovery continues to be slower, with restaurants especially worse off.”

Reflecting the impact of the pandemic, the share of overall City employment represented by the RRR sectors declined from 19 percent in

November 2019 to less than 15 percent in November 2020, according to the report.

“While jobs in these sectors grew faster in the past year than in the private sector as a whole, employment is still well below pre-pandemic levels,” the report says.

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