The arts and entertainment sector has fared better on Long Island than in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic according to data from the state comptroller’s office.
Long Island has "clearly had jobs return faster to their pre-pandemic levels," said state deputy comptroller Rahul Jain. "And that’s not happening in the city."
Nassau and Suffolk counties combined reported 20,400 jobs in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector in December 2019, according to comptroller data. By April 2020, when COVID-19 had forced so many local businesses to close, that figure had dropped to 10,200. As of December, however, the number was back up to 15,800 — a total loss of 4,600 jobs, or 22.5%.
By contrast, New York City went into the pandemic with 87,000 jobs in the same sector in February 2020, but by April, had plummeted to 34,100 jobs — a drop of more than 60% — after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued his stay-at-home order in March. Employment in the sector has remained "at or near these levels," according to a report issued by the comptroller’s office Wednesday.
"That’s pretty stark," Jain said.
The arts, entertainment and recreation sector includes such businesses as live theaters, cinemas, comedy clubs, bowling alleys, spectator sports and gambling, as well as museums and parks.
Jain attributes the employment gap between New York City and Long Island to several factors, including size. The city has more venues, and bigger ones, that once employed large amounts of people, including museums, concert halls and Broadway theaters. What’s more, Long Island has been quicker to reopen. Local cinemas, for instance, have been operating since October, while in New York City they remain closed. (Gov. Cuomo will allow them to reopen Mar. 5.)
Also hurting the city, according to Jain: Fewer tourists and commuters means less money being spent, and some of that money has flowed to neighboring counties like Nassau and Suffolk.
The positive data for Long Island may come as cold comfort to those in the local arts industry who are struggling.
Anne and Henry Stampfel, who own cinemas in Malverne and Bellmore, said they reopened their venues last year when restrictions were lifted but have reclosed them due to poor attendance. The Stampfels said they are collecting unemployment but still must pay rent on their Malverne venue. And with few major movies on the horizon to attract audiences, they may not open their venues until summer.
"For Long Island to have a better percentage of jobs, that tells you a little something about the strength of Long Island," Anne Stampfel said, but she added: "I’m not feeling those effects."