New York is facing historic unemployment due to the pandemic and is something that could shape up to be a long-term problem. 

“I don’t think anybody is seriously looking at a v-shaped recovery where everything by the end of this year is back to normal,” said EJ McMahon, the president of the Empire Center. “I think it’s going to be quite a while.”

New York’s unemployment rate in May stood at 14.5 percent, down from 15 percent in April. But the pace of returning jobs as businesses reopen indicate a return of low unemployment is unlikely — and the high jobless rate could last into 2021. 

“If you look at the payroll numbers in terms of job counts at the current rate of recovery from the April low, we won’t have the same number of actual payroll jobs for a year and a half,” McMahon said. 

Most regions of upstate New York are now in phase four of the reopening, with western New York entering that stage on Tuesday. But gyms, malls and move theaters remain closed for now. Governor Andrew Cuomo says a fast re-opening could be harmful both to public health and the economy. 

“Yes, we have to get the economy going,” Cuomo said on Monday. “But reopening fast has not been good for the economy. What’s been happening is when that virus spikes, the market goes down.”

Upstate New York could have an especially deep hole to climb out of after its recoery following the last recession in 2008 was slow.

“While there were many fewer COVID cases upstate there were very severe economic disruptions upstate that were less prepared to absorb them,” McMahon said.


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