City Jobs Lost in Storm Are Returning, but Unemployment Rate Is Flat

New York City’s job market started to shrug off the effects of Hurricane Sandy at the end of the year, new employment statistics showed on Thursday.

The city added back more than half of the jobs it lost in November after the storm blew through, but not enough to reduce the unemployment rate. The rate held at 8.8 percent in December, still a full percentage point higher than the national rate, according to a report from the state’s Department of Labor.

Hiring picked up in retail stores, theaters and fast-food restaurants after a sluggish start to the holiday season in tourist-attracting businesses, said James Brown, principal economist for the Labor Department. But Wall Street ended the year without gaining any jobs, and a spate of layoff announcements from some of the biggest banks signals continued weakness in the industry, he said.

“One of the fundamental features of this recovery has been that there hasn’t been a particularly strong securities rebound,” Mr. Brown said. “Usually, when we have several years of strong growth, it’s securities right out front leading.”

Two big banks, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase, filed notices with the Labor Department this week for layoffs of a total of 889 jobs. Since November, one of their competitors, Credit Suisse, has said it will cut more than 385 jobs.

Most of the hiring in the city last month was to replace workers whose jobs were eliminated in November, said Barbara Byrne Denham, an economist with Eastern Consolidated, a real estate services firm in Manhattan.

Because the Labor Department makes seasonal adjustments to its monthly statewide data but not its numbers for the city, Ms. Denham performs her own calculations. After adjusting for the usual seasonal fluctuations in hiring and firing, Ms. Denham estimated the city added 10,100 jobs in December after losing a revised total of 18,500 jobs in November.

Still, Ms. Denham said she was puzzled that construction employment declined slightly in December, despite all of the rebuilding that had to be done after the storm. But she said she expected construction hiring to pick up as soon as insurance companies paid claims to owners of damaged homes and businesses.

“We could see a significant jump in the January data because of these recouped jobs,” Ms. Denham said.

For all of 2012, private-sector employers in New York City added about 80,000 jobs, or two-thirds of all of the jobs gained in the state, according to the Labor Department. The city’s job-growth rate, about 2.4 percent, was significantly higher than the growth rates for either the state (1.6 percent) or the nation (1.7 percent) in 2012.

Statewide, the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in December, down from 8.3 percent in November.

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