The survey by the New York Fed was taken during...

The survey by the New York Fed was taken during the first and second weeks of December.  Credit: Charles Eckert

Employees of retailers and other service firms saw their wages drop this year for the first time in more than a decade, according to surveys from New York's top bank.

Workers' pay fell 1.2%, on average, compared with 2019, the surveys of service firms conducted this month by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found. It was "the first reported decline in the 12 years that we've been asking this question," the bank said, noting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

About 200 retailers and service firms were polled in New York State, northern New Jersey and Fairfield, Connecticut, from Dec. 2-9. Concurrently, 125 factories in the state were surveyed. Long Island companies participated in both polls.

The service firms continued to be pessimistic about their sales and overall economic conditions. "After falling 11 points last month, the headline business activity index fell another 11 points to -26.9, its lowest reading in six months," the New York Fed said.

Factory executives were more optimistic, and their employees' wages rose 2.1% this year, on average, according to the surveys.

"Looking ahead to 2021, both groups projected an average rise of roughly 3%" in employee salaries, the bank said.

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WAGES DURING THE PANDEMIC

Retail and service workers: -1.2%, on average, compared with 2019

Manufacturing workers: +2.1%, on average, compared with 2019

Projected wage incease in 2021

Retail and service workers: 2.9%, on average

Manufacturing workers: 3.2%, on average

SOURCE: Federal Reserve Bank of New York surveys

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