April layoffs fueled by the coronavirus pandemic ended New York's 10-year string of private sector employment growth and brought the unemployment rate to 14.5%


Employment numbers released late Thursday by the state Labor Department laid bare the economic devastation caused by the statewide shutdown ordered to stop the COVID 19 spread.


New York's unemployment rate climbed to near Depression era levels of 14.5%, compared with 4% in April 2019. The 10.4 percentage point increase was the state’s largest monthly hike since current record keeping began in 1976, the Labor Department said.


Private sector jobs plunged by nearly 1.8 million across the state in April to their lowest level since 1994, and wiping out all the jobs gains and more made since Great Recession.


"In only nine weeks, unemployment claims made during the coronavirus crisis have already exceeded the 37 million claims made over the entire 18 months of the Great Recession,'' Daniel Zhao, senior economist for the jobs site Glassdoor, said in a statement.


April numbers give a first glimpse of the virus-related shutdown early wave, with the full extent likely to be revealed in late June when May numbers are released.


But even in the initial report, the depth of the impact is stunning.


Across the state, nearly one in every five private sector workers lost their job.


According to the most recent U.S. Department of Labor statistics, nearly 1.9 million New Yorkers are collecting jobless benefits in the week ended May 16. Only California, with 3.6 million on the unemployment rolls, and Florida, with 2.1 million, have more people out of work.


Private sector job losses in other metro regions the numbers, and the corresponding year-over-year percentage decrease are jaw dropping:


Albany-Capital region: 71,800, 19.4%


Binghamton: 14,500, 16.6%


Buffalo-Niagara Falls, 110,500, 23.3%


Dutchess-Putnam: 21,000, 17.1%


Elmira: 4,700, 15.6%


Glens Falls: 8,800, 20.8%


Ithaca: 9,200, 16.2%


Kingston: 6,800, 14.3%


Nassau-Suffolk:, 281,900, 24.5%


New York City: 885,000, 21.8%


Orange, Rockland and Westchester: 153,000, 24.6%


Rochester: 98,200, 21.3%


Syracuse: 57,500, 22%


Utica-Rome: 20,200, 20.9%


Watertown-Fort Drum: 5,600, 19.4%


Non-metro counties: 60,700, 16.2%


As expected, the accommodations and food services category took the largest hit from virus-related shutdowns that started in mid-March, followed by retail.


In leisure and hospitality, 638,000 jobs were wiped out. A year ago April, 774,000 were employed in the category.


At the end of this April, that number dwindled to 240,000 in accommodations and food services, according labor department statistics, as the restaurants were mostly shuttered except for takeout and the travel industry hit the skids.


Never since the labor department updated its statistical survey in 1990 has the number been that low.


The state unemployment benefits bill has never been higher.


"To date, we have paid out over $10 billion during this crisis, compared to just $2.1 billion in total last year,” Roberta Reardon, the labor commissioner, said Wednesday.


Nationally, about 2.4 million Americans filed initial unemployment benefit claims last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, as the health and economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus ruptures a growing number of industries.


In just nine weeks, 38.6 million have sought jobless benefits that represent the nation’s most reliable gauge of layoffs.


"While recent indicators show the initial steep job declines are slowing, the labor market remains in a deep hole it will have to climb out of," Zhao said.


The latest claims tally was down from the 3 million who filed claims the week before, and the record 6.9 million who sought assistance in late March.


Initial applications for unemployment insurance have now steadily declined seven weeks in a row.