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Quiz Time!

In New York State, in which sector of industry do you think more people are employed, the financial activities sector or in government?

It’s the financial services sector, right? Well, not exactly. And it isn’t because hard times are coming to Wall Street. The latest data that come from July 2008 indicate that New York State had 724,000 people employed in the financial activity sector. That sounds like a lot. But the government sector employs more than double this number of workers, 1.52 million at last count! The following chart shows seasonally adjusted monthly employment from 1990 to 2008.


Among other things, what stands out for me includes:

  1. If the financial sector is in fact nearing a meltdown, then there is still lots of room for the financial activities sector to shed jobs. And with Lehman filing for bankruptcy, AIG in the tank and Merrill Lynch on a respirator, this is perhaps about to happen. These dislocations are healthy for long-run economic prospects of course – if this crisis has taught us anything, it was that much of the expansion in the financial services sector in recent years was wasteful.
  2. The financial sector in New York is simply not as large as I would have thought it to be. The labor force is roughly 10 million large, so the financial sector makes up less than 10% of it.
  3. Even if every single job were lost in the financial sector, New York State’s unemployment rate would jump from its current 5.2% to 12.7%. While that is high, it is not Great Depression high. For reference, NYS unemployment hit 6.5% in September 2003, 6.6% in June 1997 and 8.9% in July 1992.
  4. The trend lines seem to be moving in the opposite directions.

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