Figures released late last week by the state Department of Laborput the December unemployment rate for the city at a seasonallyadjusted 10.6%, its highest in more than a decade and higher thaneither New York State or the nation as a whole. "If you lookclosely at the underlying unemployment rate numbers, the number ofemployed New York City residents was flat in October and November,then fell sharply in December," she tells GlobeSt.com. "This looksrather volatile, which leads me to think that there was a datacollection problem somewhere in there."

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Since the state's unemployment forecasts are based on householdsurveys rather than employer reports, Denham thinks the job-lossfigures--i.e. the numbers of positions that were actuallyeliminated--provide a more accurate barometer of the local economicweather. For one thing, she says, the state projections are basedon fairly small samples; for another, some of the surveyrespondents may reverse-commute to the city's western, northern oreastern suburbs, and their job losses do not reflect downsizing bycity-based employers.

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State Labor Department figures show that the five boroughs lost67,500 private-sector jobs between December 2008 and December 2009,a 2.1% drop. That's comparable with the rate of job elimination inseveral other metro areas across the Empire State, includingAlbany-Schenectady-Troy, Buffalo-Niagara Falls, Long Island and thecity's northern suburbs, although higher than in some upstateareas.

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With that said, Denham agrees that the effects of office-usingjob losses have had a greater impact in the city than they havenationwide--but only marginally. "New York City has lost 6.6% ofits office-using employees since the start of the recession, whilethe US has lost 6.5%," she tells GlobeSt.com. "This suggests thatNew York's office market has suffered slightly more so than the USas a whole. The US suffered more in its construction andhospitality industries."

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The Eastern Consolidated report notes that New York City lost9,100 jobs in December; 3,300 of which were in the public sector."The private sector lost 5,800 jobs in the month, led by accountingwhich lost 1,400 jobs, restaurants (-1,300 jobs) and retail trade(-1,100)," Denham writes. "It should be noted that the priormonth's report of 11,400 job losses in the city was reviseddownward to 5,600 losses, with only 1,800 jobs lost in the privatesector." Most of the public-sector losses came from citygovernment, driven by the elimination of temporary jobs that hadbeen created with federal stimulus funds.

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On a more upbeat note, the securities industry added 600 jobsduring December, but Denham cautions that this may not signal areturn to positive employment growth generally. "Usually,securities and employment services are lead industries; i.e. theystart to add jobs before the rest of the economy," she tellsGlobeSt.com. Securities losses have probably abated, but employmentservices is still losing jobs." Therefore, she says, job losses"may taper off a bit, but I think they will continue for at leastsix more months."

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Nor should much comfort be taken from the fact the jobs wereadded in the healthcare and education sectors during December."Health services adds jobs constantly, as does education," Denhamsays. "I do hear some positive anecdotal news from Wall Streetrelated to hiring and business, but little elsewhere."

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.