New York’s Economic Recovery Accelerates, Bucking National Trends

Although the pace of employment recovery from the pandemic recession has been slowing nationwide, a few key markets have seen an uptick in the number of jobs added, a charge led by the New York-White Plains metro division.

New York led the nation in job gains, adding 403,000 jobs in the year-ending May 2022, according to the latest release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That was almost 28,000 jobs greater than last month’s annual total.

The Big Apple has not recovered all the jobs lost in the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, however. After losing about 1.4 million jobs initially, New York has regained almost 1.2 million jobs and will likely return to pre-pandemic employment levels in the next month or two. In fact, seven of the top 10 markets for annual job gains are still below February 2020 employment levels but each are on the threshold of a full recovery.

Nine of the markets from last month’s top 10 list returned in May, with a few changing places. As mentioned, New York again led the nation for job gains with 403,000 new or recovered jobs, while Los Angeles returned at #2 with 230,700 jobs added. Los Angeles’ annual gain slipped almost 25,000 jobs from April but is still well above the 200,000 mark.

Dallas returned in the #3 spot, gaining 224,400 jobs for the year, close to its total in April, while Chicago returned at #4, adding 212,100 jobs. Chicago was the other major market with a big gain in annual employment from April (+22,200 jobs).

Houston and Atlanta switched places at #5 and #6 in May, gaining185,500 and 170,300 jobs, respectively. The boost in oil prices may account for the jump of almost 16,000 additional jobs in Houston from April’s annual total, while Atlanta gains slipped almost 14,000 jobs from last month.

The Northeast markets of Boston and Philadelphia returned to the #7 and #8 spots but Boston’s annual gain of 125,500 jobs was down about 6,600 jobs, while Philadelphia’s gain of 113,800 jobs was up 5,400 jobs from April’s totals.

Seattle displaced Orlando in this month’s top 10, jumping into the #9 spot with an annual gain of 99,100 jobs. Washington, DC slipped one spot to #10, gaining 96,600 jobs for the year. These were the only markets in the top 10 with less than 100,000 jobs gained since April 2021, when annual job change turned positive during the pandemic recovery.

Only four of the next 10 top 150 markets ranked by May job gain are below their pre-pandemic employment bases, two less than last month. Of those, Orlando is very close to regaining its pre-pandemic employment level, while Anaheim, San Francisco, and Detroit are each about 30,000 jobs short of recovery.

A total of 79 of our top 150 markets have regained all the lost jobs from the pandemic (10 more than last month) but that leaves 71 more to go. However, 28 of those 71 have less than 5,000 jobs to recover before they reach February 2020 levels.

Comparing annual job gain on a month-over-month basis, 55 of our 150 markets had higher annual job gains in May than in April with another five unchanged compared to 56 last month, despite a general slowing in gains at the metro level.  

This month, most of the markets with fewer annual job gains than last month are in the Sun Belt (Los Angeles, Austin, Atlanta, Orlando, Raleigh/Durham), as opposed to the Northeast markets in April. These month-over-month comparisons of not seasonally-adjusted labor data from the BLS can sometimes be misleading, but nonetheless give an idea of overall trends.

With the tight labor market, inflationary pressures, and difficulties in staffing continuing, only eight markets had annual job gains of 100,000 or more compared to 11 in April and 17 in January. Another 22 markets gained between 50,000 and 99,999 jobs, one more than last month. Jackson, MS was the only one of RealPage’s top 150 markets that had an annual job loss from last May.

Like annual job gains, the annual percentage change in employment continues to be solid but is slowing as well. Eight of April’s top 10 returned in May with four of those 10 in Texas, compared to three in Florida, and only one in California.

Las Vegas continues to lead the top 150 for percentage annual growth in employment at 9%, although, this is the first month with sub-10% job growth for any market since before the pandemic. Dallas ranked #2 with 8.2% growth, followed by San Francisco with 7.5%.

Orlando continues to have strong growth with 7.3% in May and Nashville and Austin tied for the #5 spot with 6.7% growth.

The small Midland/Odessa, TX oil market was close to its growth level from last month with 6.6% job growth in May, as another Texas oil market – Fort Worth – grew employment by 6.5%, tying with North Port-Sarasota, FL and Miami.

Compared to April’s list, the levels of job growth shifted downward but primarily at the top end, with the difference between #1 and #10 averaging about 120 bps lower than last month. Job growth in the top market fell about 130 bps while the #10 market was 10 bps lower than April’s #10. Additionally, three of the top 10 in April were below 7% growth compared to six in May.

The weakest markets for percentage growth are primarily in the Deep South and industrial Midwest, with a few Northeast markets in the mix. Major markets with sub-3% growth include Milwaukee, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Virginia Beach, Richmond, Omaha, Des Moines and St. Louis. In addition to the top 10, strong job growth markets include: Atlanta, Houston, New York, Seattle, San Diego and Riverside. Forty markets had annual job growth rates above the not seasonally-adjusted national average of 4.5% compared to 43 in April.