The state of New York has the third-largest economy in the United States, trailing only Texas and California. New York's economy is so large, it would rank as the 15th or 16th largest economy in the world if it were its own country; the exact ranking depends on the source.
Its signature metropolitan center, New York City, is the single largest regional urban economy in the country. New York City is the leading job hub for banking, finance, and communication in the U.S. New York is also a major manufacturing center and shipping port, and it has a thriving technological sector. There are more books, magazines, and newspapers published in New York than in any other state in the country. In short, the leading industries in New York are not just driving the state's economy; they are leading the charge on a national and global scale.
1. Financial Services
The financial services sector is synonymous with Wall Street, which is located in Manhattan. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), founded in 1817, is likely the most influential securities exchange in the world. This sector does not lead New York in terms of total employees or total productive wealth, but few question whether it is the most influential. It is also one of the most potentially lucrative; financial professionals in New York earn an average of four times the amount of the average New Yorker.
Financial services are highly concentrated in New York City. According to the New York Bureau of Labor Market Information, more than 90% of jobs in securities, commodities and other investments are located in downtown New York City. Nearly every such job outside of downtown is located in Long Island or the Hudson Valley region. All told, there are more than 330,000 financial services workers in New York.
2. Health Care
New York is home to nearly 20 million people, which means there is a lot of demand for health care services. The New York Department of Labor indicates there are more employees in the "Health Care and Social Assistance" industry than any other. Moreover, the Labor Department anticipates high job growth in the sector.
Unlike financial services, however, the median wage for health care jobs in New York falls below state averages. And while many large New York-based health care firms have made substantial profits since the passing of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the industry does not demonstrate the same cyclical influence on the state economy as Wall Street. Health care industry growth in New York is fueled, in part, by programs such as the Digital Health Marketplace Program, the Community Health Clinic Expansion Program and the Bio & Health Tech Entrepreneurship Lab NYC.
3. Professional and Technical Services
As of 2018, there were an estimated 403,200 New Yorkers working in professional and technical services. This broad field includes a great number of different professional groups, such as lawyers, accountants, mechanics, and marketers, who share similar characteristics.
These are the professionals who make daily life possible for individuals and businesses, and who work primarily in supplemental roles to other, more notable sectors. For this reason, this group of professions is highly sensitive to economic cycles; unlike financial services, which lead economic trends in many cases, professional and technical services are beholden to the success of other industries.
According to the Department of Labor research, the professional, scientific and technical services group is the only significant industry that displayed all of the following: faster-than-average job growth rate; faster-than-average salary growth rate; and an average weekly wage above the state average.
4. Retail Trade
Retail trade also includes a large number of subindustries, such as food and beverage, clothing retailers, electronics retailers, auto retailers and everything else that comes to mind when invoking images of Fifth Avenue. As in finance and manufacturing, New York retailers and their marketing advisers are major trendsetters in the national industry.
According to the Retail Council of New York State, there are more than 941,000 workers in more than 77,000 New York retail businesses. Many of these jobs are spread throughout the greater New York City area, particularly Manhattan and Jefferson County.
This is another cyclical industry that tends to be very hard hit during economic recessions, though some defensive industries, such as food, do not necessarily see the same fluctuations. Like professional services, retail trade is often a trailing sector and is usually a byproduct rather than a cause of a healthy New York economy.
New York exports a wide variety of manufactured goods to other states and foreign countries. The manufacturing sector is a leader in railroad rolling stock, as many of the earliest railroads were financed or founded in New York; garments, as New York City is the fashion capital of the U.S.; elevator parts; glass; and many other products.
As many cheaper and lower-paying manufacturing jobs continue to relocate overseas, New York has seen a corresponding rise in technical manufacturing. This includes computer products, mobile devices, video games, 3-D printing, and general software engineering tools. These jobs tend to pay well above the average state wage.
The great manufacturing hub of New York is located just east of Newark and Staten Island in what locals refer to as the Five Boroughs. After more than a decade of bleeding jobs away from New York's high-tax and high-cost environment, an entrepreneurial boom led to net gains in manufacturing in 2014. In the years between 1997 and 2013, New York City alone saw almost 125,000 manufacturing jobs disappear.
6. Educational Services
Though not typically thought of as a leading industry, the educational sector in New York nonetheless has a substantial impact on the state and its residents, and in attracting new talent that eventually enters the New York business scene.
There are hundreds of thousands of teachers, teachers' assistants, professors, tutors, childcare workers, educational agencies and other education sector employees in the state. Many of them are public employees, as the government is the largest employer in the state, though there is also a healthy private education market.
This sector tends to grow at an average rate with total employment levels and total population levels. New York has seen a large uptick in college attendees, both young and old, over the 21st century, and an increasing number of new employees in other New York sectors were educated in the state.