Albany and Washington, D.C., are known as government towns. Maybe New York City should be, too: The six largest employers here are government entities, according to Crain’s latest ranking of the city’s top employers.
The Crain’s list shows that New York City’s top employer is the city itself, with 152,836 full-time employees in 2010, not including the Department of Education, which is second on the list, with 121,255 employees last year.
Ranking third, with 66,240 employees, is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, even though it shrunk its New York area workforce by 5% last year, more than any government employer in the city.
Rounding out the Top 6 here are the U.S. government (with 52,800 federal workers in the city), the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. (36,964 employees at such public institutions as Bellevue and King’s County hospitals) and the state of New York (with 26,500 workers in the five boroughs).
The government employers on the Crain’s list of the city’s 40 largest employers together represented 426,408 full-time or full-time equivalent positions—or half of all the local employees counted on the entire list.
In addition, several of the rest of the Top 40 employers are heavily dependent on government funding, including the City University of New York and large private hospitals that survive on Medicaid and Medicare payments.
New York City’s reliance on government work adds an intriguing local economic layer to some of the political debates over public-sector spending in Washington and Albany these past few years.
The recently passed state budget, for instance, calls for $450 million in state workforce cost reductions for the fiscal year that began April 1. If the costs cuts can’t be negotiated with public worker unions, then the state might have to lay off as many as 9,800 employees over the next 12 months.
“We could be seeing the loss of thousands of middle-income jobs in New York City,” said James Parrott, chief economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal think tank based in New York.
Cutbacks in public sector jobs could “act as a brake on recovery,” Mr. Parrott warned, adding that “the reduction in state government contracts for social services, senior services and child welfare that go to non-profit organizations are [also] likely to mean job cutbacks in the private sector as well.”
E.J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, downplays such dire talk. The new state budget introduced “not so much cuts as non-growth,” he said, noting that the city’s 100,000-plus job losses during the Great Recession makes 9,800 potential state layoffs a “rounding error.”
“This won’t affect the city at all,” Mr. McMahon said. “The [government] layoffs in the city have to do mostly with people retiring or accepting early retirement.”
The Crain’s survey of top employers found that each of the six public-sector employers reported declines in full-time staff over the last year, from a 2.6% drop in city government ranks to the 5% hit at the MTA.
Public employees weren’t the only ones to feel the economy’s sting, of course. Insurer American International Group Inc., media giant Time Warner and phone and cable company Verizon Communications all posted double-digit job losses last year, even as the local economy began recovering from the impact of the global financial crisis.
And some employers even grew their New York City workforces in 2010.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. eclipsed Citigroup Inc. last year to become the Big Apple’s largest private-sector employer. J.P. Morgan reported a 13% increase in employees in the five boroughs, to 24,927 at the end of 2010 from 22,066 at the end of 2009. Meantime, Citigroup held steady with a slight 0.2% rise, to 24,442 last year from 24,393 in 2009.
Other big gainers last year include media company Bloomberg LP, where local jobs grew by 8.6%, and private hospitals North Shore-LIJ Health System (up 7.4%) and NYU-Langone Medical Center (6.3%).