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NYC job growth skews toward low-wage industries, City Comptroller Scott Stringer says in report

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer will release

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer will release a report on the city's job growth in NYC. Pictured: Stringer attends the National Action Network national convention on April 8, 2015, in New York City. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

Retail and food service jobs and other lower-wage work accounted for more than half of city’s job growth in 2015, pointing to a “troubling trend,” City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a report to be released Monday.

The city added more than 97,000 new jobs to the private sector, but 54 percent were in positions that pay less than $59,000 annually, his economic update found.

Stringer contrasted “the good news” of a fifth straight year that saw more than 90,000 new jobs with the “not as great” news in low-paying industries, “where wages have continued to stagnate.”

Between 2009 to 2014, the most recent year for which such data is available, the average pay in low-wage fields fell by about 3.2 percent while that in high-wage industries grew about 10.3 percent, the report showed.

“When real income declines in low-wage jobs, that means more New Yorkers can’t afford to raise families and build their communities,” the city’s financial watchdog said, calling for an increased minimum wage.

Medium-wage jobs — with an average yearly salary of $73,000 and in fields including construction and transportation — made up only 20 percent of last year’s growth, Stringer’s report found.

High-wage jobs in fields such as finance and with salaries above $117,000 were 26 percent of the new jobs, it showed.

The document showed the disparity between medium- and low-wage job growth was stark at the end of 2015. There were 4,700 fewer midrange jobs in the final three months than in the previous quarter, but 9,000 more lower-paying jobs.

Overall job growth pushed the city’s unemployment rate down to 4.9 percent in the final quarter — below the national rate for the first time since 2011. The city rate is 0.1 percentage points below the national one.

Ronnie Lowenstein, director of the city Independent Budget Office, said Sunday the growth in low-wage jobs is “largely the result of the remarkable strength of the tourism industry.”

The boom isn’t projected to last much longer, she said.

The record numbers of tourists flocking to the city has meant more work in the retail and “leisure and hospitality” sectors, but a strong U.S. dollar and weakening economies abroad mean international tourists will have less to spend, Lowenstein said.

Between 2009 and 2015, private-sector real wages declined in all the outer boroughs, but increased by 7.5 percent in Manhattan, where the high-paying jobs are concentrated, Stringer’s report found. The steepest drop in pay was in Queens at 3 percent.

New York City job growth in 2015

97,700: New private-sector jobs added

54%: Low-wage jobs (paying an average $41,000 annually)

26%: High-wage jobs (paying an average $188,000 annually)

20%: Medium-wage jobs (paying an average $73,000 annually)

4.9%: NYC unemployment rate in last quarter of 2015 (0.1 percentage point below national rate)

(Source: Office of City Comptroller Scott Stringer)

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