By Holly McKenna
ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - New York state has lost more than 500,000 job opportunities and about $31 billion in potential earnings from 2008-2011 as the state continues to feel the economic repercussions left by the recession and slow recovery, according to a report released on Tuesday.
These opportunities consist of jobs that have been lost and jobs that would have been created if the unemployment rate was at the pre-recession level of 4.5 percent, according to the report from the Fiscal Policy Institute. The jobless rate in New York has topped 7.5 percent for almost three years.
The report also highlighted the fact that many better- paying jobs have disappeared, only to be replaced by lower paying ones.
The state has lost more than 250,000 middle- and high-wage jobs since 2008 in sectors such as manufacturing, construction, government, and finance, according to the research group. New York City has lost 120,000 of these jobs.
However, lower-paying jobs have seen gains over the last three years, with 82,000 positions added statewide. These are jobs in restaurants, educational consulting services, and home health care services. The picture is similar in New York City, which showed a net gain of 69,000 lower-wage jobs.
Median household incomes in the state, adjusted for inflation, fell by 3.2 percent from 2007 to 2010, the report said, adding that weekly earnings have fallen for New York workers who are in the bottom half of the pay spectrum as many have had their work hours reduced.
"These figures underscore just how costly the recession and weak recovery are for New York workers and their families," said James Parrott, chief economist at FPI.
Poverty in New York is also at high levels, FPI said, mainly in the four major upstate cities. Rochester and Syracuse each have poverty rates of 34 percent, followed by Buffalo at 30 percent and Albany with 28 percent, according to FPI.
The child poverty rate is high, too, with 30 percent of New York City children living in poverty and while the rates in the four upstate cites range from 43 percent to 51 percent.
Parrott, whose group is funded by foundations, said it is mainly up to the federal government to fix the problem by giving states and localities more stimulus and infrastructure funds, and continuing unemployment insurance and payroll tax relief.
"At the margin, there are things that New York City and New York State can do, most notably continuing the high-income tax surcharge; it's a lot of money and the sector that's losing the most jobs is government," he said by telephone.
The report, entitled "The State of Working New York 2011: Smaller Incomes, Fewer Opportunities, More Hardships," can be found at: http://www.fiscalpolicy.org/SOWNY2011.html
(Reporting by Holly McKenna in Albany; Additional reporting by Joan Gralla in New York; Editing by Jan Paschal)