State Comptroller Offers Snapshot Of Queens – Part 1
In 2011, more than 48 percent of the population in Queens was foreign-born (the second-highest share among the nation’s 20 most populated counties). Immigrants in Queens come from more than 120 different countries, and, unlike most other large counties in the nation, no single country of origin is predominant.
The U.S. Census Bureau defines 55 geographic areas in New York City, and names them by one or more of the neighborhoods associated with each area.
Of these Census-defined neighborhoods, the three with the highest share of immigrants as of 2011 were all located in Queens: Elmhurst/- Corona (70 percent), Jackson Heights (63 percent), and Sunnyside/ Woodside (60 percent). Three other Census-defined neighborhoods in Queens (Flushing/ Whitestone, Forest Hills/Rego Park, and Kew Gardens/Woodhaven) were also among the top ten areas with the highest share of immigrants.
In 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available), private sector employment in Queens reached 486,160 jobs, the highest level on record for the borough. Among the City’s five boroughs, Queens had the highest level of employment outside of Manhattan and accounted for 15.1 percent of all private sector jobs in the City (slightly more than Brooklyn). From 2003 (which marks the end of the recession of the early 2000s) through 2012, Queens added 48,650 private sector jobs, an increase of 11 percent.
The recession hit Queens hard (its rate of job losses was second only to that of Manhattan) and the borough emerged from the economic downturn a year later than the rest of the City. Nevertheless, Queens has made a strong recovery. Over the past two years, employment in the Queens private sector grew by 6.6 percent, a faster rate than in any other borough during this period, and the rate of job growth accelerated in 2012. After growing rapidly for many decades, the population of Queens declined during the 1970s (along with the population of New York City as a whole) as a result of the City’s fiscal crisis, a rise in crime, a deterioration of public schools and other factors. Between 1980 and 2012, however, Queens added more than 381,000 residents, a gain of 20 percent, which was faster than the citywide growth rate (17 percent). Most of the growth occurred during the 1990s because of particularly strong immigration.
The health care and social assistance sector is the largest employment sector in Queens (108,000 jobs), and accounted for one in every five jobs in 2012. The sector also registered the most employment gains (almost 6,000 jobs) during the past two years. Hospital employment rebounded in 2012, regaining nearly half of the jobs lost during the recession (when several hospitals closed), and employment in physicians’ offices continued to expand, along with home health care services. The transportation and warehousing sector is the second-largest employment sector in Queens, with 59,390 jobs (air transportation services account for about half these jobs). John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports (two of the region’s three major airports) play a unique role in the Queens economy, discussed later in this report. The transportation and warehousing sector accounts for 12.2 percent of all private sector jobs in the borough, which is more than three times its share in the rest of the City. This sector gained more than 3,000 jobs during the past two years, which exceeds the level of jobs lost in the recession. Retail trade, which is the third-largest sector in Queens, gained a net total of 1,600 jobs during the recession.
Each sector includes a broad range of occupations; those primarily associated with the industry (such as doctors and nurses in the health care industry), along with other supporting occupations in the industry (such as staff for business and administrative tasks, building maintenance, etc.). Recession more than overcame small job losses in the first year. During the recovery, the sector added more than 3,000 jobs. Similarly, the professional and business services sector, which accounts for about one in ten jobs in
Queens, also showed net job growth during the recession (with a gain of 2,000 jobs) and added another 5,400 jobs during the past two years.
The accommodation and food services sector gained 2,000 jobs during the recession (with job gains in both years), and the sector showed even stronger growth (4,900 jobs) during the recovery. Manufacturing and construction suffered large job losses during the recession, with a combined loss of more than 10,000 jobs. The construction industry has begun to add jobs, and manufacturing showed a slight improvement in 2012, though not enough to overcome losses in 2011.
The financial services sector in Queens also had large job losses during the recession. While this sector has added 980 jobs during the past two years, the industry has recovered less than half of the jobs lost during the recession. Outside of Manhattan, Queens has the most diverse employment base in the City.
In the past two decades, the unemployment rate in Queens has been consistently lower than the citywide rate. In 2012, the unemployment rate in Queens averaged 8.3 percent (compared to 9.2 percent citywide). As in the rest of the City, the unemployment rate in Queens surged as the recession worsened, rising from 4.9 percent in 2008 to 8.7 percent in 2010. Although the unemployment rate in the borough remains high by historic standards, it has eased during the first eight months of 2013 to an average of 7.8 percent.
Household Income and Poverty:
The median household income in Queens was $53,570 in 2011 (the latest year for which data are available), which was higher than the citywide median of $49,460. Although the median household income (after adjusting for inflation) increased from 2000 through 2007, these gains were reversed over the next four years because of the impact of the recession (a pattern similar to the other boroughs outside of Manhattan). As a result, the inflationadjusted median household income in 2011 was 7 percent lower than in 2000.
Over the past two decades, Queens has had a lower poverty rate than the other boroughs, except Staten Island. Though the poverty rate has risen in recent years (as it has throughout the City), from its historic low of 12.1 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2011, the poverty rate still remains well below the citywide average of 20.7 percent.
In 2011, 44 percent of all households in Queens were home owners (a share that was second only to Staten Island), compared to 28 percent in the rest of the City. The housing market in the borough is showing encouraging signs of improvement. According to the New York State Association of Realtors, the median sales price in Queens was $387,500 in August 2013, up from $347,000 one year earlier.
The scarcity of affordable rental housing remains a serious problem in Queens, as it does in the rest of the City, and the problem has worsened over the past decade. In 2011, the median rent was $1,200 (the highest in the City except for Manhattan), and rents for both rent-stabilized and market-rate apartments have been rising faster than incomes. As a result, the share of rental households in Queens with rents that equaled more than half of household income (which is considered a severe burden) rose from 20 percent in 2002 to 28 percent in 2011. After government rent subsidies are included, the share of households facing a severe rent burden in 2011 dropped somewhat to 25 percent.
Part 2 of the State Comptroller’s report in next Week’s Wave