Shakira Crawford worked at a boutique hotel in Midtown as a housekeeper—a union job with great benefits. But she was laid off a week ago due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“There's no one coming in the hotel,” she said.
On top of dealing with a growing pandemic, thousands of New Yorkers working in hotels, for-hire vehicle industry, retail, on Broadway, and in restaurants and bars are losing their jobs. While waiting on assistance from the government, they face an uncertain future.
According to Crawford’s union, the Hotel Trades Council, she’s one of around 20,000 people who’ve already lost their jobs—half of their membership.
“What is certain is that there are going to be significant layoffs for at least a few months,” said Richard Maroko, the union’s recording secretary and general counsel.
Crawford, 43, was homeless five years ago and now worries about paying her rent and caring for her three children.
“How is anyone going to be able to work now anyway unless you're working at home?” she said. “My job’s not an at-home job, because I don't have a bachelor’s degree in anything.”
James Parrott, an economist at the New School, estimates that 500,000 jobs—10 percent of the total number of jobs in the city—will disappear by the end of March.
“It really hits hard at people who are paid by the hour, who can't work remotely and don't get paid when they don't work,” he said.
Parrott said estimates that 20 to 25 percent of low-wage workers could lose their jobs. He added it is almost certain the city will eventually lose more jobs than during the Great Recession, when the official unemployment rate exceeded 10 percent.
“In a recession, you'll see sort of episodic layoffs and business closings.” He said. “The numbers mount up over time. This was a completely different situation where for public health reasons… businesses were ordered to close en masse. So that is why we've never had anything like that before.”
Deanna Cohen, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Labor, said they were “seeing over a 1000% increase in [unemployment] claims in some areas across the state.” This week in Washington, President Donald Trump and Congress have been hashing out an economic rescue plan that could provide assistance to families and businesses.
Nevin Muni, 52, used to work part-time at T.J. Maxx in Astoria. She went from working 20 hours a week to 8 hours a week. On Thursday, the store closed, and she lost her job all together.
“I hope it is not going to last long because I'm just hoping for the vaccine for this disease,” she said. “But if it continues … it is really scary. I don't want to imagine it.”