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The New York Times cites a new study from the Center for an Urban Future, a public policy think tank, saying that "the retail industry in New York City has shed thousands of jobs since the pandemic, even as the rest of the job market has almost fully recovered."

According to the Times, "The study found that in the three years since February 2020, New York City lost 37,800 retail jobs, an 11.1 percent decline, while the overall private employment sector has regained all but 0.8 percent of jobs.

"The city’s job losses in retail were also far worse than in the rest of the country; nationally, retail jobs were up an average 0.7 percent. Retail jobs are a critical part of the city’s job market, particularly for young people of color.

"The retail industry — which includes clothing, sporting goods and grocery stores, among others — has been shrinking for years, but the pandemic sped up the growth of online shopping, especially in big cities like New York, where the commercial ecosystem relies on tourism and still-half-empty office buildings, said Jonathan Bowles, the center’s director."

The Times points out that "the decline is contributing to widening racial disparities.

"More than 70 percent of the city’s 301,700 retail jobs are held by Black, Hispanic and Asian workers, a disproportionate share of whom did not finish college. Over a fifth of that work force is under the age of 25.

"In the first quarter of the year, the unemployment rate for Black New Yorkers was 12.2 percent, compared to 1.3 percent for white New Yorkers — the biggest gap this century."

While local politicians, such as Mayor Eric Adams, point to the almost full recovery in the overall private sector, the Center notes that "the industries in New York that are growing — tech, finance, health, legal and accounting services — are not accessible to the work force that has been laid off."

The report "recommended offering tax incentives to encourage in-person shopping and, most crucially, expanding new affordable housing in the five boroughs to increase foot traffic and shore up demand."

KC's View:

Seems to me that we're dealing with intractable forces here - we have to adapt to them because in so many ways they cannot be controlled.  This isn't just the pandemic, or just the impact of e-commerce, or the work-from-home movement.  It is all these things, and the gravity exerted by a future in which cities - and the businesses that want to thrive there - will have to make major infrastructural investments in order to be relevant.