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OPINION: Without Action, New York’s Economic Shortcomings Could Become Permanent

By Will Barclay

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A new report from the Empire Center citng Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data paints an alarming picture of New York’s COVID-19 recovery. Check it out at: https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/nys-still-has-very-far-to-go/. Just one month after then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo “paused” the state, New York had already lost close to 2 million jobs as the outbreak spread. Since that initial shutdown, New York has had, objectively, the worst economic recovery of any state except Hawaii and Nevada, which have economies heavily invested in tourism.

Simply put, our state’s economic data looks abysmal. According to information from the BLS, employment in New York state as of August 2021 was nearly 10 percent below its February 2020 level. In stark contrast, nationally, the average decrease was just 3.6 percent. Further, notes the Empire Center, New York “trails the national jobs-recovery trend in every private industry for which comparable data exists.” No matter what numbers you choose to look at, they are all bad. 

 Making matters worse, New York has seen its labor force decline and its participation rate plummet. Adding to the economic pressure, the state maintains an outstanding debt of $9 billion for federal unemployment-insurance loans that already-struggling businesses will be expected to repay. These trends are unsustainable. New York is going to have an extremely challenging recovery without direct intervention from the state legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul, which so far has been largely non-existent. 

Private-sector jobs, especially those derived from small businesses, are the engine which drives our economy. If we cannot recover those jobs soon, they might never come back, and that is only going to exacerbate the existing labor shortage already holding the state’s recovery back. 

 The Assembly minority conference has long advocated for a more robust effort to stabilize the economy, while the Democrat majorities and the executive have floundered. For example, recovery and aid programs, like the one aimed at getting billions of dollars into the hands of struggling renters and their landlords, took months longer than every other state to get off the ground. Business expenses have skyrocketed due to monetary policy-driven inflation and taxes in New York remain as oppressive as ever. What is being done to combat these problems?

 Many of these issues could be resolved with political will and attention. However, the current administration and legislative leadership have been far more concerned with continuing to erode public safety with unworkable bail and parole “reforms” than they are with getting New Yorkers back to work. As is the case with most problems in this state, misguided priorities are to blame. If leadership does not take drastic action soon, we are looking at the potential for a labor and economic disaster that may become permanent and unfixable. We simply cannot allow that to happen.               

William (Will) A. Barclay, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact Barclay at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us.