Real Estate, Take Notice! Manhattan’s Share of Private-Sector Jobs Declines, Brooklyn’s Increases

Manhattan’s share of New York City’s private-sector job market has continued its 50-year decline, according to a new report (PDF) from the Center for an Urban Future, a nonpartisan think tank based in the city.

Unsurprisingly, the borough still contains the majority of New York City’s private-sector jobs—61.6 percent. But Manhattan’s share has decreased steadily in the last half-century, and the 2008 figure was in fact not far from the all-time low, 2004’s 61.1 percent. By way of contrast, Manhattan held 67.6 percent of private-sector jobs in 1958.

Perhaps most jarring, according to the report, the anticipated financial recovery won’t actually mean recovery for financial services, at least not to the point where the industry was just a year ago:

[T]he city’s financial services sector, concentrated in Manhattan, has taken a disproportionate and perhaps permanent hit. When the economy picks up again, Manhattan will undoubtedly bounce back. But if historical trends continue, it won’t see as large a share of the new jobs as it did a half century ago.

Prevalent pessimism to the contrary, there were 3,123,467 private-sector jobs in New York in 2008, and unemployment in the city was slightly lower than the national average. The real estate industry closely watches jobs figures, as realities like office and apartment vacancies as well as commercial and residential rents are closely tied to them.

Manhattan’s decline accelerated in 1987, the same year that Brooklyn’s share began to reverse its slide—and the same year, thanks to the stock market crash that October, when the city faced its last great financial crisis.

In 2008, third-place borough Brooklyn gained on Queens, threatening to close a gap that opened when Queens overtook Brooklyn in 1978. In 2008, Brooklyn’s share of the private-sector employment was 14.09 percent, while Queens’ was 15.07 percent.

Shifts in New York’s employment landscape suggest ramifications for the real estate world: More jobs mean more demand for office space, and more employees with money to spend on apartments. Manhattan may look a little bleaker in coming months if current trends continue.