Unemployment in Queens fell marginally again in November, the latest month for which figures are available, continuing a pattern that’s been in place all year and leaving the borough’s workforce better off than residents of the city as a whole, the state and especially the nation.
Joblessness here was 8.1 percent, compared to 8.2 percent in October and 9.2 percent in November 2009, according to the state Department of Labor. The improvement means that about 7,700 more residents of the borough have jobs than did a year ago: 1,033,500 compared to 1,025,000.
There are multiple factors in play, according to Labor Department economist Elena Volovelsky, who focuses on the city. Chief among them are the travel industry, which has been on the rebound; retail, which keeps expanding in Queens; and even residential development, which despite some setbacks continues to grow, especially in the western sections of the borough.
“We’ve seen nice pickups in employment in Queens,” Volovelsky said. “I think Queens is going to be one of the bright points this year.”
The travel industry is key to the borough’s economic welfare for the obvious reason of the presence of Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports. A little more than a year ago, analysts in Volovelsky’s office expressed some concern that unemployment in the borough could rise if the airlines instituted heavy layoffs. That didn’t happen.
Volovelsky allowed that while carriers have “probably laid off some people,” they are doing well overall.
“Airlines are rebounding really nicely because of the pickup in business travel, as well as leisure travel,” she said. “Last year, 48.7 million people traveled to New York, up 6.8 percent from the year before.”
The city as a whole has an unemployment rate a full percentage point higher than Queens, but still headed the right direction. In November joblessness was at 9.1 percent, a marginal improvement over October’s 9.2 percent but far better than the 10.5 percent of November 2009. Year-to-year comparisons are the most important and most reliable because of seasonal factors, analysts such as Volovelsky agree.
Statewide the figures were 8.3 percent in both October and November, and 8.9 percent the year before. Only 700 private sector jobs were created in November, an increase of less than one-tenth of a percent, the Labor Department said.
The most jobs were added last year in the educational and health service sectors, followed by professional and business services. The highest job losses were in government, especially at the local level, trade, transportation, utilities, publishing, telecommunications and manufacturing.
“Like the nation as a whole, New York State’s economic recovery from this recession has been very uneven to date,” the department’s deputy director of research and statistics, Norman Steele, said in a prepared statement. “November’s small increase of 700 private sector jobs follows October’s very large gain of 37,800.”
He continued, “The recovery has also been uneven across the state’s regions. While New York City’s unemployment rate is down over the year, virtually every other metro area in the state saw its rate increase over the year.”
Steele went on to compare the state’s far better rate of 8.3 percent with the national figure, 9.8 percent.
Unlike Queens, New York City or the Empire State, the United States as a whole is exactly where it was in November 2009.
Asked why New York is doing so much better, Volovelsky said, “We’re the brain center for the rest of the United States, basically. Queens is probably benefiting from the same things as the city is: professional and business services.”
But, she added, no single sector is completely responsible for the borough’s or city’s improving job situation. Queens also benefits because many residents work elsewhere, especially in Manhattan.