Nearly half of NYC workers lost employment income due to COVID-19

Nearly half of NYC workers lost employment income due to COVID-19

The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in wage losses for nearly half of all New York City workers, exacerbating existing racial economic disparities, a report from Robin Hood finds. 

Launched in 2012 by Robin Hood in partnership with Columbia University, the organization's Poverty Tracker surveys the same twenty-three hundred New York City residents every three months on core measures of disadvantage, including income poverty, material hardship, and/or health problems. The latest edition of the report, Spotlight on COVID-19: Nearly half of all New York City workers lost employment income from the pandemic, deepening economic insecurity and racial inequity across the city (22 pages, PDF), found that 49 percent of all workers and 57 percent of low-wage workers suffered employment income losses between April and June, and that 16 percent of all workers and 31 percent of low-wage workers continued to work on-site as essential workers, putting their and their families' health at risk. Black (55 percent and 31 percent) and Latinx (59 percent and 14 percent) respondents were disproportionately more likely to have lost income or be designated as essential workers, compared with white respondents (43 percent and 10 percent).

According to the survey, New Yorkers who lost employment income or were essential on-site workers (30 percent and 19 percent) were twice as likely to be low-income or living in poverty (30 percent and 20 percent) as respondents who were able to work from home (15 percent and 9 percent). Black (29 percent and 29 percent) and Latinx (45 percent and 25 percent) workers who lost income were more likely to be low-income or living in poverty compared with white workers who lost income (21 percent and 15 percent). 

The report also found that respondents who lost income and essential workers who continued to work on-site were both significantly more likely than those able to work from home to report not being able to pay their rent or mortgage (26 percent and 20 percent vs. 9 percent) or bills (35 percent and 30 percent vs. 16 percent), not being able to afford to see a doctor (32 percent and 24 percent vs. 16 percent), not having enough food (40 percent and 29 percent vs. 5 percent), or not being able to make their paycheck last through the end of the month (49 percent and 46 percent vs. 34 percent). According to the survey, the rate of food insecurity among Black and Latinx workers who lost employment income was more than double that of their white counterparts (70 percent vs. 33 percent). 

"To truly address economic disadvantage and inequality in New York City, [policy makers] and advocates must advance the policies that aim to stabilize the economy in tandem with those that could substantially improve life in the city, protect New Yorkers for economic insecurity, and reduce racial inequities," the report's authors argue. "This includes policies like a living wage, adequate unemployment insurance, child allowances, affordable housing, and universal access to paid sick leave, medical care, and broadband [I]nternet, to name a few. These policies must also be made available to immigrant communities that have continued to be left out of safety net programs. Progress on these fronts will ensure that we do not 'return to normal,' but we build an economy that better serves the people of New York City."