The Omicron Wave Stalled Growth and Led to High Absenteeism in the Region
Even before the start of the new year, businesses in the tri-state region were hampered by supply disruptions, rising input costs, and difficulty finding adequate staff. On top of these challenges, the Omicron wave dealt another setback to the regional economy. With infections running high, many businesses were forced to deal with a combination of reduced demand from customers and renewed absenteeism among workers. Indeed, our regional business surveys indicate that economic growth stalled in early 2022 as firms continued to struggle to find workers. Moreover, employee absenteeism was reported to be nearly three times its normal level. While the path of recovery remains highly uncertain, firms generally expect conditions to improve in the months ahead and many are still adding or planning to add staff.
The Future of Remote Work in the Region
The coronavirus pandemic abruptly changed the way we work, in meaningful and potentially lasting ways. While working from home represented a small share of work before the pandemic, such arrangements became unexpectedly widespread once the pandemic struck. With the pandemic now being brought under control and conditions improving, workers have begun to return to the office. But just how much remote work will persist in the new normal? The New York Fed’s June regional business surveys asked firms about the extent of remote working before, during, and after the pandemic. Results indicate that before the pandemic, the average firm in the region conducted just a small share of its work remotely, a figure that currently stands at around a third among service firms but well below 10 percent among manufacturers. Once the pandemic is fully behind us, service firms expect double the amount of remote work than before the pandemic, though that figure is less than the share being done currently, while manufacturers expect the amount of remote work to return to where it was before the pandemic.
Women’s Labor Force Participation Was Rising to Record Highs—Until the Pandemic Hit
Women’s labor force participation grew precipitously in the latter half of the 20th century, but by around the year 2000, that progress had stalled. In fact, the labor force participation rate for prime-age women (those aged 25 to 54) fell four percentage points between 2000 and 2015, breaking a decades-long trend. However, as the labor market gained traction in the aftermath of the Great Recession, more women were drawn into the labor force. In less than five years, between 2015 and early 2020, women’s labor force participation had recovered nearly all of the ground lost over the prior fifteen years. Then the pandemic hit, erasing these gains. In recent months, as the economy has begun to heal, women’s labor force participation has increased again, but there is much ground to be made up, especially for Black and Hispanic women. A strong labor market with rising wages, as was the case in the years leading up to the pandemic, will be instrumental in bringing more women back into the labor force.
Tracking the Spread of COVID-19 in the Region
The New York Fed today unveiled a set of charts that track COVID-19 cases in the Federal Reserve’s Second District, which includes New York, Northern New Jersey, Fairfield County Connecticut, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These charts, available in the Indicators section of our Regional Economy webpage, are updated daily with the latest data on confirmed COVID-19 cases from The New York Times, which compiles information from state and local health agencies. Case counts are measured as the seven-day average of new reported daily cases and are presented on a per capita basis to allow comparisons to the nation and between communities in the region. Recent data indicate that after spiking to extraordinary levels in April, new cases have remained relatively low and stable in and around New York City, and in upstate New York. By contrast, cases have been trending higher in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands since mid-July.
New York Fed Surveys: Business Activity in the Region Sees Historic Plunge in April
Indicators of regional business activity plunged to historic lows in early April, as efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus kept many people at home and shut down large parts of the regional economy, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s two business surveys. The headline index for both surveys plummeted to nearly -80, well below any historical precedent including the depths of the Great Recession. About 60 percent of service firms and more than half of manufacturers reported at least a partial shutdown of their operations thus far. Layoffs were widespread, with half of all businesses surveyed reporting lower employment levels in early April.
Businesses in the Tri-State Region Struggling to Weather the Coronavirus Outbreak
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, New York State, New Jersey, and Connecticut have closed nonessential businesses and schools and asked residents to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. These actions are unprecedented, and the economic impacts are likely to be temporary but severe, and difficult to track and measure. With conditions changing so rapidly, timely data on the economic impacts of the outbreak and resultant policies on businesses and people are both scarce and important. In this post, we provide some very recent information on the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak in the New York-Northern New Jersey region based on responses to a special survey we fielded between March 20 and March 24. The results are striking, though perhaps not surprising: roughly half of the service firms surveyed and well over a third of manufacturers said they have already implemented at least a partial temporary shutdown, and more firms plan to do so in the near future. Further, 40 percent of service firms and 30 percent of manufacturers are reporting staff reductions, and many firms are noting difficulty accessing credit and are concerned about their solvency.
Women Have Been Hit Hard by the Loss of Routine Jobs, Too
Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz find that although both men and women have experienced a loss of routine jobs since 2000, the decline has been markedly steeper for women.