Queens economy growing: Category changes reveal new top five boro industries

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Food services and drinking places is the category that takes second place with a larger number of individual businesses, but with a lower number of employees earning fewer dollars in total wages.

Ambulatory health care services, social assistance and hospitals are the next three industry categories, in that order, completing the top five industries in Queens.

Those of you who have that special place on your kitchen wall dedicated to tracking the top industries in the borough will have already discovered that this list is very different from any other listing up through 2002. Back then, the leading Queens industries were health services, air transportation, manufacturing and construction in that order. Now, the industry categories are named and developed differently, thus labor statistics are dramatically different. How did this happen?

According to their Web site, the New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. in 2002 released his office's analysis and seasonal adjustments of jobs numbers based on the revised unadjusted data released March 13, 2003 by the New York State Department of Labor. The revised data is based on the new reporting categories required by the North American Industry Classification System.

The previous Standard Industrial Classification codes were developed in the 1930s when manufacturing accounted for a far greater portion of U.S. jobs. The classification codes were last revised in 1987.

The Web site describes the North American Industry Classification System categories as being based on a production-function concept, emphasizing new and emerging industries and service industries. They also allow for comparability with Canadian and Mexican jobs data. The system structure has 20 basic sectors, compared with the 10 Standard Industrial Classification code industry sectors and near 1,200 U.S. industries. (A full description of the North American Industry Classification System data may be found in a PowerPoint presentation by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at

The North American Industry Classification System series cannot be compared directly with the Standard Industrial Classification code series, because definitions have changed. For example, a new category of management includes establishments such as corporate headquarters offices that are primarily in the business of managing other establishments. This category is subtracted from the industry total with which the management employees were previously associated.

Similarly, the former finance, insurance and real estate sector has been eliminated and two categories have replaced it - finance and insurance and real estate and rental and leasing.

The industry classification system's description of the leading industry, specialty trade contractors is as follows:

The specialty trade contractors subsector comprises establishments whose primary activity is performing specific activities (e.g., pouring concrete, site preparation, plumbing, painting, and electrical work) involved in building construction or other activities that are similar for all types of construction but that are not responsible for the entire project.

New York State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi in a report titled "Current Trends in the New York City Economy January 2005" describes the changes occurring over the last few years in Queens' industries.

"Employment gains in local market-oriented sectors (which include education and health services, construction, retail and wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, utilities and telecommunications, and eating and drinking services) were slower than in the export-oriented sectors. Between December 2003 and July 2004, over 18,100 jobs were created in the local market-oriented sectors, after a loss of 3,900 jobs in 2003. Jobs were added in more than half of these sectors."

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall delivered her State of the Borough address on Jan. 27 last year. She began her third year as borough president describing herself as "an advocate for the people of Queens, coordinating government services and resolving local differences to achieve common goals."

As leader of a borough with a population of more than 2.2 million people, she said, "My job is to bring people together at my table and make things happen. I meet every day with representatives of communities, businesses, the arts, education, health care, and government to solve problems."

The Queens borough president uses the office of economic development to coordinate and oversees efforts to attract, create and retain jobs in Queens County. The office provides technical assistance to large and small businesses throughout the borough, as well as to Queens's local development corporations and business groups.

The office of economic development seeks to market Queens as a business and tourist destination, monitors major job-creating projects that are being considered or are underway in the borough, and works to upgrade commercial and industrial areas and regional hubs. Finally, the office works closely with the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation.

The change in categories created a change in the marketing focus at the borough president's Office of Economic Development. Marshall expects growth in all of the industries in our borough.

Donato Bendinelli is a management consultant and can be reached at

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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