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Report: Retail jobs in NYC have decreased by 11% since 2020

Al Urbanski
Apartment rentals in NYC, however, rose by 30% in May.

Lease signings for apartment rentals in Manhattan in May were 30% higher than in April, and rents are up 10% over a year ago, according to a report from Douglas Elliman Real Estate. New York City has come back from the pandemic.

But retail in America’s biggest city, apparently, has not.

Retail workforces in New York have declined by 11.1% since 2020, lagging far behind other American cities in numbers of workers employed, according to a report from Center for an Urban Future. During the same time period, retail jobs nationally have increased by 0.7%, and private sector jobs in New York have declined by just 0.8%.

Three retail sectors posted particularly low employment rosters, all merchandise sellers. Clothing and accessories stores saw employment decline by 26.9% in the last three years. Workers at department stores declined by 16.7% and by 14.1% at sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores.

Employees at food and beverage operations and grocery stores, meanwhile, decreased by just 4% and 6% over the same period.

The Center for Urban Future noted that retail’s employment drop-off follows in line with other troubling indications for the future of retail in New York. Among them:

  • Retail jobs in the city have been declining since 2015, suggesting that the sector’s troubles run deeper than the pandemic. It is down by 45,700 workers since February 2015—a 13.2% drop. During the same period, total private sector employment in New York City increased by 11.5%, a net gain of 419,300 jobs.
  • The average retail business in the city now has 10 employees compared to 11 prior to the pandemic. While this could be because of fewer customers during the pandemic, it could also have been caused by the growing adoption of automated, self-check-out counters.

Retail jobs are down, too, in New York’s other four boroughs. Though Manhattan lags the most with 20.4% fewer jobs than pre-pandemic, Staten Island is down by 8.7%, Queens by 7.6%, Brooklyn by 5.1%, and the Bronx by 3.3%

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