The number of retail jobs in New York City plunged by nearly 40,000 compared with pre-pandemic levels as remote work, automation and the rise of e-commerce have caused businesses to cut hiring, according to an industry survey released Thursday.
The sector — which includes major department stores and boutiques among many other businesses, but excludes restaurants — saw jobs decline by 11.1% to 301,700 in February 2023, a 37,800 drop from February 2020, according to the Center for an Urban Future, which produced the inaugural report.
Manhattan has been the slowest to recover out of the five boroughs, accounting for 32,862 of the job losses, or a 20% decline from pre-pandemic levels, largely because of remote work trends, said Jonathan Bowles, the organization’s executive director.
“As people are working from home, they are more apt to click to buy than walk into a store,” Bowles said, “and it’s around this time that automation began to accelerate.”
The survey showed Queens has 4,890 fewer jobs, down 7.6%, Brooklyn lost 4,024 jobs (5.1%), Staten Island lost 1,459 (8.7%) and the Bronx lost 1,034 (3.3%).
Another major factor for the decline in retail jobs, Bowles said, has been the Big Apple’s mass exodus during the pandemic. New York City’s population fell 5.3%, or 468,000, from April 2020 to July 2022, Census data shows.
“The pandemic accelerated a decline in retail jobs that has been happening since 2015,” Bowles said, when there were 347,400 retail jobs.
Among the worst hit retailers were clothing and department stores – down 27% and 17% respectively – from February 2020 to February 2023, while sporting goods, and book and music stores were down 14%.