New York’s economy: fragile at best – By George J. Marlin

The following appears in the October 5-11, 2012 issue of the Long Island Business News:

The Office of the New York State Comptroller announced Sept. 19 that total state tax revenues for the period April 1 through Aug. 31 were $147 million less than projected and $204 million below collections for the same period in 2011.

“Almost halfway through the state’s fiscal year, the state’s budget is still on relatively solid ground, but weak revenue collections and slow economic growth signal a need for caution going forward,” Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said.

What should sound alarms throughout the state is the comptroller’s report on personal income tax, or PIT, collections. These revenues, which totaled $11.2 billion as of Aug. 31, were down $149.5 million and are lower than the total income projected in the state’s revised fiscal plan.

The PIT figures indicate that three years after the recession ended, New York’s economy is not experiencing a robust recovery. The state Labor Department confirmed this when it announced Sept. 21 that the Empire State’s unemployment rate is stuck at 9.1 percent versus 8.1 percent nationally. The total number of unemployed, which was 869,400 in July, increased in August to 872,100.

Don’t expect the job situation to get any better during the fourth quarter of this year. That’s because the financial sector, which is the key component of the state’s economy, will contract, not expand, by the year’s end.

The nation’s second largest bank holding company, Bank of America, announced in September it will lay off 16,000 employees and close 200 more branches by the end of the year. New York will take a big hit because Bank of America has a large presence in the state. In addition, Wall Street investment banking firms are expected to downsize due to declining revenue, particularly in corporate finance departments.

On another front, American Airlines, which is a major employer at the region’s airports, has sent out layoff notices to 11,000 employees and intends to fire at least 4,000.

Other bad news for the state: The economic slowdown in Europe is beginning to hit our economy. There is less demand for American goods and as a result, traffic in New York’s ports is expected to decline. A prolonged European downturn will also hurt the state’s If Italy or Spain or Ireland or Greece throw in the towel, abandon the euro and default on debt, a worldwide recession could ensue, further damaging New York’s stressed financial sector.

Another potential problem: If the Bush tax cuts, the payroll tax cut and various business tax credits all expire in December, and the mandatory federal sequestration of across the board cuts in discretionary spending is triggered, there will be a fiscal shock that will severely harm New York’s already weak economy.

The Congressional Budget Office has announced that if these events come to pass, the nation will plunge into a recession in the second half of 2013. And New York, which is dependent on major government spending and has a high concentration of high earners, will take a major hit.

In a recent analysis, the American Action Forum has pointed out that if the U.S. falls off this “fiscal cliff,” total federal and state marginal rates for New York’s small business owners and high-earning taxpayers will exceed 50 percent. They predict this would increase the costs of doing business for every small and medium-sized company and “would reduce the probability that a small business would undertake expansion by nearly 15 percent, and reduce the capital outlays of those who do by almost 20 percent.” The AAF estimates that New York could lose between 171,000 and 614,000 jobs.

This fall, don’t let any politicians con you into believing all is well. National and international events could easily shatter New York’s fragile economy.


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