New York’s working — at least for now



Job numbers up both nationally and in the NYC metropolitan area

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its most current national and local employment numbers. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased nationally by 248,000 in September, bringing the unemployment rate down to 5.9 percent, a 0.2 percent decrease from the previous month. Professional and business services, retail trade, and health care sectors saw the biggest increases both nationally and in the New York City-Northern New Jersey-Long Island area, which saw a gain of 156,500 jobs in August, 2014 over August 2013.  The Midtown Gazette Staff took a street-level look at the numbers. — M. Chadwick Shank and Joe Ramsawak.


Midtown fashion retail gears up for holiday rush

By M. Chadwick Shank and Joe Ramsawak

Anthropologie front display.

Front display at Anthropologie showcases the colors of the autumn season. Photo: Joe Ramsawak.

New York state exceeded the nation in retail apparel jobs. August 2014’s state employment numbers (approximately 1,556,500) are up from last year  (approximately 1,530,100) for the trade sector, while national numbers for clothing and clothing accessory stores in September 2014 (approximately 1,357,100) are down from September 2013’s report (approximately 1,364,900), and from this past August (approximately 1,399,400).

There are about to be even more jobs along Midtown’s historic Ladies’ Mile, as stores hire for the holiday season.  J. Crew at 17th Street and 5th Avenue was already packed with customers, even in Saturday’s torrential downpour.

“Holiday time is the most amount of hiring you will ever do,” said Stacey Clarke, a manager who has worked for J. Crew for the past seven years. While candidates can submit their applications online, Clarke said that an in-house hiring manager screens them before bringing applicants into the store for interviews.

A similar process takes place just a few steps south at Anthropologie. Like J. Crew, Anthropologie accepts many of its applications online and staffs a hiring manager to select applicants for in-person, follow-up interviews.

“We bring in 30 per week for interviews,” said Allison Nye, 25, a manager who has worked at four Anthropologie stores in the past five years. “It’s all behind the scenes until November,” she said. “It happens really quickly and smoothly.”


Manhattan’s Flower District expects uptick in sales and employment

By Alexandra Levine and Ana G. Mendez

Flower District prepares for fall

The Flower District prepares for fall and the holiday season. Photo: Alexandra Levine.

The Flower District, with its roots in the late 1800s, is hiring more staff as the shops enter their busiest months of the year. The District, tucked into two blocks near 28th Street and Sixth Avenue, sells fresh and artificial flowers to floral designers and individual customers year-round, but between September and December, the retailers also offer an array of seasonal plants, including pumpkins, maple leaves, dahlias, evergreens, Christmas gifts and decorative wreaths. “The best months [for sales] are now through December because of Christmas coming,” said Lenoard Ibrahim, an employee at Albion Wholesale Flowers. “Business doubles.”

Albion hires four or five additional people to assist during the holiday season, said Ibrahim. Foliage Garden, a nearby shop, employs up to three extra staff during this time, said store employee Jeffrey Moore.

But this added help is only seasonal, said both Ibrahim and Moore, as these temporary workers leave after the New Year. And despite the uptick in sales during the holiday months, jobs in the industry are on the decline. According to a jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2,920 floral designers in New York in 2013, down 66 percent from the 4,380 before the 2008 recession.

“During the recession, business definitely went down because people don’t need flowers,” said Keiko Hui of Lasting Art, an artificial flower wholesaler. “Flowers are not essential items.”


Times Square hotel clerks gear up for a busy fall season

By Aarthi Manohar and Justin Morton

Times Square Hotels gear up for a busy fall season.

Times Square Hotel clerks gear up for a busy fall season. Photo: Justin Morton.

Although the summer season has come to a close, hotel desk clerks in Midtown West continue to work long hours, as business travelers begin booking rooms that tourists occupied only a month ago.

“For the last two weeks, we’ve been sold out,” said Shivanna Sawh, a desk receptionist at the Comfort Inn at West 39th Street and Ninth Avenue. Two doors down, clerks at the Hampton Inn were equally busy. “We have a bus of a hundred students arriving right now,” said Jennifer, a worker there who asked that her last name not be used.

New York City hotel desk clerks make about $15.25 an hour, which is nearly five dollars more than the national average of $10.58.

The Staybridge Inn at West 40th Street and Ninth Avenue was so overwhelmed with customers that a hotel fire safety director was working the desk along with the clerks.

“Everything has been booming,” he said.

In Times Square, two new hotels will undergo development in the coming months. Area desk clerks are ready for an upswing in activity.

A guest services supervisor at the Distrikt Hotel, located next door to Staybridge Inn, agreed. “The fall is usually our busiest time.”


NYC street food vendors struggle with unemployment, minimum wage

By Emilyn Teh and Alanna Weissman

Anamul Hasan at his hot dog cart in Columbus Circle. Photo: Alanna Weissman.

Anamul Hasan at his hot dog cart in Columbus Circle. Photo: Alanna Weissman.

Though nationwide unemployment has dropped, the number of people employed in the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island region decreased by 37,600 between July and August 2014, according to the metropolitan area employment and unemployment report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on October 1 — even though it was up over the previous year.

Of the 8,836,200 people employed in the area, some are still struggling to make eight dollars per hour, the minimum wage in New York.

Mohamed Ahmed, a 28-year-old Egyptian who holds an Australian college degree and is currently working at a juice truck in Columbus Circle, said that his wages depend on how well the business is doing daily.

“I get paid $60 a day if business is good and $45 to $50 a day if business is bad,” he said. “I work six to seven hours a day.” Anamul Hasan, a hot dog vendor across the street from Ahmed, had only a slightly better experience.

“It depends on how well business is doing,” Hasan said. “I make about eight dollars an hour but if I work 12 hours, my boss gives me $100.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently raised the living wage from $11.90 to $13.13 an hour, and has proposed similar increases to the minimum wage.


Midtown West Fast Food employees show little concern over living wage increase

By Mallory Shelbourne and Tal Trachtman Alroy

Dunking Donuts in Lower Chelsea. Photo by Tal Trachtman Alroy.

Dunking Donuts in Lower Chelsea. Photo by Tal Trachtman Alroy.

As part of his effort to fight income inequality, last week Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order implementing an increase of the city’s living wage law, raising the hourly rate from $11.90 to $13.13. The living wage expansion is expected provide the mayor with leverage to increase the minimum wage, currently $8 an hour, which will have a significant effect on fast-food and retail workers.

Fast food employees in lower Chelsea said they were not aware of the order, and did not know if they would affected by it. “That is great for our future,” said Ruby Patel, 29, who started working at Subway six months ago. She was surprised to learn of the order.

Carina Ortiz, 22, who has worked at Dunkin’ Donuts for two years, explained that workers receive incremental wages every six months depending on performance. When told the order would go into effect immediately, she said, “That would be good,” with a smile.

Carlos Mulles, 25, a manager at McDonald’s, said fast food employees are not concerned that raising the minimum wage could bring on negative effects. According to Mulles, when the minimum wage was last raised from $7.25 to $8, his McDonald’s franchise did not lay any employees off.


Electricians thrive as construction booms in Midtown West

By Charmaine Nero and Rachel Raudenbush

Electrical industry jobs in NYC increased to 156,500 this year, as construction boomed in Midtown West. Photo: Charmaine Nero.

Electrical industry jobs in NYC increased to 156,500 this year, as construction boomed in Midtown West. Photo: Charmaine Nero.

The new residential buildings in New York City and high-end projects like the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project are signals that the construction business is on the rise.

Mike Martinez, a 30-year old electrician from Long Island who works for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #3 Union in New York City, chose a career in construction as a means of achieving financial stability. “When I was accepted into the apprenticeship the economy had began to break down, so financially it was my best option at the time,” he said. “I decided to stick with it and make a career of it largely because of the pay scale and benefits, but also because it is a career that changes with technology and that keeps skilled labor in demand.”

New York added 156,500 electricians, the largest number for the profession nationally, since August 2013. It has the third largest population of employed electricians at 35,950, after Texas and California, and the second highest annual income for electricians, at $70,560.


Midtown Best Buy looking to hire new employees for holiday season

By Chancellor Agard and Christian Gollayan

Best Buy located near in Lincoln Centre. Photo: Chancellor Agard

Best Buy located in Midtown Manhattan Photo: Chancellor Agard.

According to the recent Bureau of Labor statistics survey, national retail employment rose by 35,000 in September.

“Every season we [hire more people for the holiday season],” said a manager of a Best Buy located in Midtown. This holiday season, the store plans to hire 20 to 30 temporary seasonal employees to help with the influx in business, about the same number as last year.

With the release of Apple’s new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus, sales are up. Although the manager would not divulge exact numbers, he did say, “They’ve been good.”


Childcare numbers steady despite universal pre-K

By Lonna Dawson and Celine Hacobian

Smarter Toddler in Midtown West.

Smarter Toddler in Midtown West did not see a change in enrollment after Mayor de Blasio’s universal pre-k took effect.

The foyer of Smarter Toddler, a nursery and daycare in Midtown, is decorated with positive affirmations and a towering stuffed giraffe wearing a sign that greets students and parents. Pre-kindergarten enrollment has not changed compared to last year despite Mayor de Blasio’s universal pre-k program, which in its inaugural month enrolled more than 50,000 NYC students in a free early childhood education program, but finding teachers and caretakers this year became a more strenuous process.

“It was harder to find teachers this summer because everyone was going to universal pre-k,” said Amber Chapman, assistant director at Smarter Toddler. Smarter Toddler charges $2150 per month for its full-day pre-kindergarten program but did not experience a decrease in enrollment in light of universal Pre-K.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, child day care service numbers are down from the previous year in New York State — 60,400 in August, 2014, compared to 61,900 in September 2013.  Nationally, the reverse was true: 863,700 in September, 2014, up from 851,300 a year earlier.