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NEWS from the Office of the New York State Comptroller
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DiNapoli: Brooklyn Leads NYC’s Economic Recovery

Brooklyn Bringing Back Jobs at Fastest Pace in NYC; Tackling Inequities Required for Broad Recovery

May 23, 2022

Brooklyn’s economy is showing signs of recovery that outpace the rest of New York City and point to a strong rebound for the city’s most populous borough, according to an analysis released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“The pandemic halted Brooklyn’s booming economy in 2020 and exacerbated some existing inequities,” DiNapoli said. “As the economy has gradually improved, however, Brooklyn is showing a return to its pre-pandemic job growth. To help the borough bounce back stronger than ever, we must address long-standing issues, like housing affordability, child poverty and food insecurity.”

“New York City is coming back, and we’re going to bring all five boroughs with us,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “We need to build back our city more prosperous and equitable than it was before, and I’m excited to see Brooklyn leading the way, with much more good news to come from across the entire city.” 

“If anyone knows one thing about Brooklyn it’s how resilient it is thanks to the incredibly determined and adaptable people who call the borough home. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Brooklyn is outpacing other boroughs in New York in its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “Comptroller DiNapoli’s report further demonstrates how well Brooklyn is positioned to overcome the challenges not only posed by the pandemic, but by other societal challenges that were exacerbated by COVID. But we must not lose momentum. Let’s focus on further increasing employment opportunities, creating safe havens and homes for diverse communities, and making our streets safer to ensure our continued success.”

“Brooklyn’s impressive economic growth in the face of a devastating pandemic is a testament to the people of this great borough,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “In order to continue building on this success, we must address the extreme inequalities that still impact too many hardworking families. That means real solutions for creating real affordable housing, supporting small businesses, and investing in smart and sustainable projects. Comptroller DiNapoli’s report is an important tool to study the challenges we’re still facing and a useful roadmap for continued investment and growth in the years to come.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought a harrowing halt to Brooklyn’s tremendous economic growth and further shed light on inequalities that plague our communities,” said Congresswomen Nydia Velázquez. “Even though we are still fighting the pandemic, Brooklyn’s economy is showing signs of a resurgence, thanks to strong recovery efforts across levels of government. In order to sustain this recovery, we must continue to take bold actions to tackle the inequalities that were exposed by the pandemic.”

“As a lifelong Brooklynite, it’s heartening to see that the economy is recovering so robustly,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “At the same time, the pandemic worsened housing insecurity, hunger, inaccessible health care and other structural inequalities that plague the borough and our city as a whole. My office will continue to partner with all levels of government to bring this economic recovery to every corner of our city, while also fighting to make New York the best place to both work and raise a family.”

“The Comptroller’s report highlights how our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is contingent on continuing to develop sound policies that center equity and justice,” said City Council Member Crystal Hudson. “Brooklyn remains the most exciting place to be, with the hum of new and emerging businesses, its rich diversity, and its ever-growing cultural attractions. However, the pandemic exposed the precariousness of too many of our neighbors’ wellbeing and the Comptroller’s report makes this clear. Despite strong indicators that our borough’s economy, its job market, and our overall health are rebounding after more than two years, we continue to see striking disparities in income, health and affordability between low-, moderate- and high-income neighborhoods across Brooklyn. We will never truly recover until every person in every neighborhood experiences material improvements in health, housing, income, and every other facet that is a key determinant of our health and wellbeing.”

“This report shows that Brooklyn has so much to be proud of, as well as crucial points of economic disparity that continue to plague our borough,” said City Council Member Chi Ossé. “As we recognize our striking successes in recovering from the pandemic, we have to remember that those who were suffering most before its onset both bore its worst effects and remain the slowest groups to recover. We are thankful to have such detailed reporting on the progress and needs of our borough, and understand our obligation to address the highlighted areas of need in Brooklyn.”

"Brooklyn's resiliency has enabled us to weather the COVID storm better than most, and now we are leading the recovery, but our small businesses still have a ways to go," said Randy Peers, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "Inflationary pressures due to supply chain issues, a soft labor market, and lingering commercial rent arrears are the top challenges we will face in the year ahead."

Brooklyn is home to nearly one-third of NYC’s population (2.7 million) and is the city’s fastest growing borough with a 9.1% increase in population from 2010 to 2020. Its economy reflected that growth in the decade before the pandemic.

Pre-Pandemic: Strong Business and Employment Growth

DiNapoli’s report found that between 2010 and 2019, Brooklyn’s employment growth of 48% was far higher than in any other borough, or than the citywide growth of approximately 29%. Much of the job growth was driven by employment in hospitality businesses.

The number of private sector businesses in the borough grew nearly 32% in the same period – faster than in any other borough – mainly due to expansion of micro-businesses (those with fewer than 10 employees). Businesses in the information sector, which includes internet publishing and broadcasting, more than doubled.

Brooklyn also saw total wages (which reflects both average salaries and the number of jobs) rise nearly 75% – far faster than any other borough. This growth was primarily because the number of jobs in Brooklyn increased rather than a significant growth in salaries.

Pandemic Underscored Disparities and Posed New Challenges

Despite Brooklyn’s overall economic success, the pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities in the borough, with rates of unemployment, poverty, median rents, broadband internet access and health outcomes varying widely from neighborhood to neighborhood.

While some Brooklyn neighborhoods saw the largest increases in median household income in the city since 2010, several remain among the city’s lowest median household incomes. Among the borough’s 18 neighborhoods, median income varied from a low of $31,350 in Brownsville/Ocean Hill to a high of $155,250 in Park Slope/Carroll Gardens.

In 2019, half of all rental households were considered rent-burdened, with at least 30% of their income going towards rent. To make matters worse, over one-quarter of renters faced a severe rent burden, putting at least half of their income toward rent. The pandemic brought Brooklyn’s housing affordability crisis to the forefront, as job and income losses affected residents’ ability to pay rent.

Disparities in income also were reflected in COVID case rates, hospitalizations and deaths, with lower income areas of Brooklyn bearing more of the brunt of the pandemic than higher income areas. However, cases and death rates varied widely across Brooklyn neighborhoods, with the lowest case rate recorded in the Gowanus/Park Slope/Windsor Terrace area and highest in East New York. As of March 2022, Brooklyn’s cumulative COVID-19 case rate was second lowest of the five boroughs, and cumulative hospitalization and death rates were third lowest.

Amid the Pandemic: Signs of Strong Recovery and Continued Growth

Much like other boroughs, Brooklyn’s recovery has been bolstered throughout 2020 and 2021 by the numerous pandemic relief programs that were available or expanded, such as the federal Paycheck Protection Program and Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) and the city’s Open Streets: Restaurants programs.

In Brooklyn, women-owned businesses, as well as businesses in either low- and moderate-income (LMI) areas or historically underutilized business (HUB) zones were awarded higher shares of RRF grant dollars than citywide.

DiNapoli’s report found that Brooklyn’s employment market is already making a comeback with 100,000 jobs regained between the start of reopening in the second quarter of 2020 (which included a May unemployment peak of 21.2%) and the third quarter of 2021. Recovery in this period was fastest in many face-to-face services, and in the information sector. The trend should continue, especially in the leisure and hospitality sector, as well as in the construction and transportation and warehousing industries.

Additional findings:

  • Education and health services were the largest employment sectors in Brooklyn. Leisure and hospitality, the borough’s third largest sector, had the fastest growth of all sectors between 2010 and 2019 with staggering growth of 109%.
  • Brooklyn is home to immigrants from more than 150 countries, accounting for 35.4% of its population, second only to Queens. The top five countries of origin among Brooklyn’s immigrant population are China, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ukraine.
  • The median age in Brooklyn was 35.6 years in 2019, lower than the citywide median of 37.2 years.
  • In the decade leading up to the pandemic, major crimes in Brooklyn (i.e., murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny auto) fell by 16%, compared to a 9% drop citywide. In 2021, major crimes in Brooklyn grew by 1%, lower than the citywide 7% increase. Compared to 2020, the number of hate crimes in Brooklyn grew by 44% to 134 in 2021, mostly reflecting anti-Jewish incidents (58). Citywide, hate crimes grew by 97 percent.

To meet residents’ needs and ensure an equitable recovery in the borough, it is critical for city and state officials to collaborate with business owners, nonprofits, community leaders and other stakeholders to effectively disseminate government resources to area businesses, individuals and families that are still in need and maintain a welcoming business climate.

Recent Trends and Impact of COVID-19 in Brooklyn

Track state and local government spending at Open Book New York. Under State Comptroller DiNapoli’s open data initiative, search millions of state and local government financial records, track state contracts, and find commonly requested data.