"In a matter of 15 days, our entire book of business was gone."
That's how breathtakingly quickly Kerri Gartell-Eng says the coronavirus pandemic dropped a crisis in her lap. And it happened just as April was about to begin.
Gartell-Eng, founder of KGEvents, has planned galas and fundraisers for mostly New York-based nonprofits for 22 years.
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April was the first month she couldn't cut herself and her staff paychecks. All the events her company was supposed to plan this year were canceled because of the pandemic. She said it was devastating.
"If my company as an event management company isn't hiring the hotel, and the caterer, and the florist, and the transportation company, the whole trickledown is insane," Gartell-Eng said. "We have no end in sight. I think that's the toughest thing about this."
The April jobs report released Friday by Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed just how much the pandemic has cratered the economy.
The loss of 20.5 million jobs drove the unemployment rate from 4.4 percent in March to 14.7 percent, the highest since the Great Depression.
Most of the job losses happened in the leisure and hospitality industries, as arenas, theaters, banquet halls, and many restaurants and hotels remain closed.
Michelle Holder, an assistant professor of economics at John Jay College, says this jobs report shows how the least paid got hit first.
"Those are occupations that tend to be lower wage, very working-class types of jobs, and certain groups are over-represented in those jobs," Holder said. "Particularly the Latinx community."
She says the national unemployment rate in the Latinx community is likely closer to 20 percent. And because New York City has larger populations of communities of color and outsized entertainment and hospitality sectors, the city is feeling the economic pain more than other parts of the country.
Also, because furloughed workers aren't counted in the monthly jobs survey, Holder believes the national unemployment rate is higher and likely to get even worse.
"It's not going to stop at 14.7 percent,” he said. “This is the tip of the iceberg."
Gartell-Eng says she has hope the crisis forces a reimagining of how "the city that never sleeps" will work and play, for health's sake.
"There's gotta be some way forward, whether it's — I think about this all the time: how are we going to serve food?” Gartell-Eng said. “How are we going to serve buffet-style food? How are you going to send people to get a drink at the bar?"
They are questions that will take time to answer in a city with limited space. So Gartell-Eng is contemplating what was once unthinkable: working where she's not the boss. That's if anyone answers the dozens of job applications she's been emailing for weeks.
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