Workforce Trends in the NYC Region

Updated September 2008

In 2006 the Center for Urban Research was asked by Queensborough Community College to help them identify areas of job growth as a resource for their students and faculty. With funding support through a Perkins Grant, the Center hired a PhD student from CUNY's Earth and Environmental Sciences program -- Michael Porter -- who analyzed the data, developed a series of maps for Queensborough, and configured a web application to portray these maps.

Website: [currently offline]

In 2007, with continued support from Queensborough CC, the Center updated these maps in several ways:

  1. added more recent data -- through 2006;
  2. incorporated more detailed industry categories using 3-digit NAICS codes (see below); and
  3. included Nassau County -- many Queensborough students live and/or work in Nassau County.

How to read the maps

Workforce trends in NYC - sample map

For each industry category, the maps show either:

  1. number of firms in 20061 as well as change from 2000 to 2006;
  2. number of employees in 20062 as well as change from 2000 to 2006; or
  3. average annual wages in 2006 as well as change from 2000 to 2006.

A sample map is shown above, with the key for the numbers in red below:

  • The title identifies the industry category (based on 3-digit NAICS codes, in parentheses3) and whether the map shows data for firms, employees, or wages within that industry category.
  • There are two types of maps -- one showing county-level patterns throughout the New York metro region, the other showing patterns within New York City and Nassau County at the ZIP Code level.
  • Shaded colors represent firms or employees or wages in 2006.
  • Red arrows represent percentage decreases from 2000 to 2006 for each category. Green arrows show percentage increases. Small arrows correspond to change under 10%, larger arrows represent change between 10 and 50% or greater than 50%.

The maps can reveal important trends for job-seekers and analysts

The maps help reveal broad trends related to job growth within the region. But they also can portray micro-patterns that might be of interest to job seekers deciding specifically where to find employment.

For example, a graduate of Queensborough Community College’s nursing program would see from the “Firms” and “Employment” maps for the “Nursing and Residential Care Facilities” industry (NAICS code 623) that jobs and firms are growing throughout the region, with some of the greatest employment in New York City and Long Island. They may want to focus their job search in Queens, but would also see from the “Average Annual Wage” map that although wages remain strong in Queens, this is the only NYC borough where health care/social services wages fell in recent years.

However, the student could then use the ZIP Code maps to see that:

  • areas near the College (ZIP Codes 11362, 11427 in Queens and ZIP Code 11021 in Nassau County) have a strong and growing employment base, and ZIP Code 11361 has high and growing wages in this sector; and
  • they could pinpoint other areas in Manhattan (midtown and the east & west sides), Brooklyn, and the Bronx that fit a similar pattern.

By comparing the different maps for each industry sector, students and others can gain a better picture of industry-specific employment patterns. The maps may not answer why the patterns exist, but they enable job seekers to focus their efforts and can help analysts focus their line of research at the regional and local scales.

About the data

The maps are based on data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program (also known as ES-202). The ZIP Code-level data were provided by James Brown at the NYS Department of Labor; the county-level data were downloaded from NYS DOL’s website.4

The QCEW collects employment and wage data from employers covered by New York State's Unemployment Insurance (UI) Law through a cooperative program with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. QCEW data encompass approximately 97 percent of New York's non-farm employment, providing a virtual census of employees and their wages as well as the most complete universe of employment and wage data, by industry, at the State, regional and county levels.

"Covered" employment refers broadly to both private-sector employees as well as state, county, and municipal government employees insured under the New York State UI Law. Federal employees are insured under separate laws, but are considered covered for the purposes of the program. Employee categories not covered by UI include some agricultural workers, railroad workers, private household workers, student workers, the self-employed, and unpaid family workers.

QCEW data are derived from quarterly tax reports submitted by all employers subject to UI laws. All covered employers are required to submit monthly employment figures representing the number of people either working during or receiving pay for the payroll period including the 12th of the month, and the total wages paid during the quarter. The QCEW program conducts ongoing surveys to verify the location and type of economic activity occurring at each of the more than 500,000 reporting units (establishments) in the state. An employer may operate in a number of different locations.

In New York State, QCEW report data are confidential. In order to ensure the anonymity of individual employers, employment and wage data are not released for any industry level in any location that:

  1. consists of fewer than three reporting units; or
  2. contains a single unit that accounts for 80 percent or more of the industry's employment.

Definitions of QCEW terms

Firms (or “reporting units”) are usually a single place of business engaged in a single business activity and operated by a single employer. Business firms operating more than one establishment, in which the sum of employment in secondary locations totals 10 or more persons, are required to submit a separate report for each unit unless the payrolls are not maintained separately. If two or more units of a single employer are in a single physical location, but maintain separate payroll records and engage in distinct or separate business activities, then each unit is treated as a separate reporting unit.

Employees are counted as all employment covered under the New York State UI program for each of the three months in the quarter. The employment count represents the number of full-time and part-time employees along with their earnings, wages, or salaries, for the payroll period including the 12th of the month. Included are persons on paid vacations or paid sick leave. Workers temporarily earning no wages due to labor-management disputes, layoffs or other reasons are not reported as employed. Persons on the payroll of more than one establishment during the same reference week are reported more than once.

Annual Average Wage is the sum of the wages for the four quarters of the year (total annual wages) divided by the annual average employment.


[1] The number of firms represents an average for the year, determined by adding the count of firms based on a snapshot during each quarter and dividing by four.

[2] Employees for 2006 also represents an annual average: adding each quarter’s count and dividing by four.

[3] “NAICS” is the 2002 North American Industry Classification System, which replaced the long-standing Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system.