High job vacancy rate puts NYC services ‘at risk,’ says Comptroller Brad Lander

A recent breakdown of New York City workforce data revealed Tuesday what critics of Mayor Adams have been saying for weeks — that city agencies are pretty empty.

The analysis, conducted by city Comptroller Brad Lander, found seven large city agencies have job vacancy rates north of 20%, a situation that puts the city “at risk,” he said.

“From building inspectors who address dangerous conditions, to tech workers who prevent cyberattacks, to social workers who support children’s wellbeing, vacancies in city agencies are putting our city at risk,” he said. “Right-sizing the city workforce to meet our budget needs can and must be done with a more strategic eye toward protecting essential services for New Yorkers.”

Brad Lander speaking at a press conference on July 21, 2021.

Over the past 11 months, Adams has pushed austerity on city agencies in an attempt to get ahead of budget shortfalls projected in the coming years. Fiscal hawks have largely praised those measures, but others have been more critical, arguing that cutting too deeply could hurt New Yorkers most in need of social services the city provides.

Many of those services are provided by the roughly 300,000 people employed by the city. Overall, the vacancy rate at NYC agencies is 7.9%, Lander’s office found.

But many agencies’ vacancy rates exceed that number. The Department of Buildings, which handles building inspections, now has 437 unfilled jobs, which comes to a vacancy rate of 22.7%. And of the 500 posts budgeted to perform DOB inspections, only 355 are currently filled, according to the comptroller.

The Department of Social Services, which administers welfare benefits, has a job vacancy rate of 20%, while the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which handles affordable housing, has a rate of 18%.

As part of his report, Lander is calling on the Adams administration to expedite hiring people for already approved positions, examine the barriers that salaries may play in recruiting qualified candidates and allow people to work from home when appropriate.

The mayor has opposed letting city workers work from home on numerous occasions.

“Despite ongoing nationwide hiring challenges affecting the public and private sectors, the city continues to take aggressive steps to recruit and retain top talent,” mayoral spokesman Jonah Allon said Tuesday.

“We have not experienced operational impacts to city services as a result of vacancies,” he added. “We will continue to monitor vacancies and take a smart, fiscally-disciplined approach to ensuring that city agencies are well-staffed so we can deliver quality services to New Yorkers.”

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