By Kate King 

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are slowly recovering jobs lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but unemployment remains elevated in the region compared with nationwide.

New York added 61,200 jobs in March, a 0.8% increase from the prior month, according to the state Department of Labor. The job growth represents a modest acceleration from prior months, and indicates that hard-hit industries may be starting to recover as state officials relax public-health restrictions on businesses, said Adam Kamins, an economist with Moody's Analytics.

"This does represent perhaps the beginning of this next phase of getting back on track and recovering," Mr. Kamins said.

New York's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate ticked down to 8.5% in March from 8.9% in February. It remains well above the 3.9% unemployment rate the state enjoyed in March 2020, just before the pandemic slammed the labor market. New York has regained 915,000, or about half, of the 1.82 million private-sector jobs lost between February and April last year, according to the Labor Department.

The unemployment rate is higher in New York City, but decreased to 11.7% in March from 12.9% in February. Mr. Kamins said the city's job market will continue to struggle until tourism rebounds and, more critically, office workers return in significant numbers to Manhattan. Financial and professional-services companies haven't shed as many jobs as other industries, he said, but the absence of these workers has hurt the restaurants, retail stores, hair salons and dry cleaners that previously served them.

"The impact of remote work is just so profound in the city," Mr. Kamins said. "You absolutely need some level of widespread immunity before you can return to normalcy."

More than 5.4 million vaccine doses have been administered in New York City since December, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio's office. The mayor expects to have five million residents, about 60% of the city's total population, fully vaccinated by June.

Despite high unemployment, some employers in the restaurant industry are struggling to hire. Jeff Bank, chief executive of Alicart Restaurant Group, said he's having difficulty finding workers for his Carmine's location on the Upper West Side. He attributed the staffing challenge to competition with other restaurants, waitstaff moving away from New York City and people not wanting to work due to stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits.

"It's the second-biggest problem the industry is having, after capacity restrictions," Mr. Bank said, referring to the 50% capacity limit on indoor dining in New York City.

Mr. Bank's other two restaurants in the city, Carmine's and Virgil's locations, are both in Times Square and remain closed. He said he hopes to reopen this fall, when Broadway shows are tentatively expected to restart. In total, Mr. Bank currently employs about 200 restaurant workers in New York City compared with 700 pre-pandemic.

In New Jersey, private-sector employers added 20,000 jobs in March, and unemployment ticked down 0.1 percentage point to 7.7%, according to state Labor Department officials. The state has now recovered about 385,000 jobs, or 54% of those lost in March and April of 2020.

Connecticut added 5,000 private-sector jobs last month, bringing the state's unemployment rate down to 8.3% compared with 8.5% in February, according to the state Department of Labor. March represented the third straight month of job growth, and in total the state has added back 60% of the nearly 300,000 jobs lost during the pandemic, Labor Department officials said.

Although improving, the tri-state job market still lags behind the nationwide recovery. The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6% in March, compared with 6.2% the prior month. In March 2020, the national unemployment rate was 4.4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Write to Kate King at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 15, 2021 15:36 ET (19:36 GMT)

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