New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles among most-populated U.S. cities to fall behind in job recovery

Many economists are forecasting an increasingly bright labor market at the national level, but several metro-area economies still have a long way to go to fully recover, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

New York, Los Angeles and Chicago—America’s three most-populated cities—are among the top 20 metro areas by jobs shortfall. Nationwide, 88 of the top 100 showed fewer jobs in October 2021 compared to February 2020, the New York Fed found in data released Friday.

The regional Fed bank ranked cities with an employment level of at least 300,000. While the list highlights the progress some areas have made in recovering jobs lost to the pandemic, it also illuminates those that have the most ground to make up heading into 2022.

Round Rock, Texas, part of the greater Austin metropolitan area, led cities that have recovered jobs, thanks to an influx of big tech companies and banks in search of lower taxes. A similar phenomenon is playing out in Tampa, Florida, which contributed to record inflation among metro areas in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On the flip side, employment in Urban Honolulu, which suffered from massive leisure and hospitality job losses, remains 10.4% below its February 2020 level, the worst among large metro areas.

The pain is most evident in large metro areas with populations of 2.5 million people or more, with employment at least 5% below pre-pandemic levels. In New York City metro area, it’s lagging by 8.3%, according to the New York Fed.

“Payroll employment is still 9% below pre-pandemic levels in downstate New York, 7% below in upstate New York, and 5% below in Northern New Jersey, compared to less than 3% nationally,” said the New Fed in a blog post. 

“With a job shortfall exceeding 10%, New York City (defined here as the five boroughs, not the larger metro) stands out as having a particularly large hole, while the surrounding areas—Long Island, Northern New Jersey, and Fairfield County—have fared a bit better.”

The regional Fed bank revises data at the state level monthly, providing an early look ahead of annual revisions by the BLS, which come out next year.

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