Does Firm Size Matter When It Comes to Wage Levels and Employment Shares?

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data produced by the New York State Department of Labor shows that there are 226,900 private firms in New York City with about 3.8 million workers on their payrolls. IBO has grouped these establishments into four categories based on the number of workers they employ to look at how sector and wage profiles differ among firms of different sizes.

Employment and Wages by Business Size, 2013
  Establishments Employment Total Wages
Very Small Businesses
(<20 Employees)
88.3% 22.3% 14.4%
Small Businesses (20-99 Employees) 9.6% 22.8% 20.5%
Medium Businesses (100-499 Employees) 1.8% 21.0% 23.9%
Large Businesses (≥500 Employees) 0.3% 33.9% 41.2%
New York City Independent Budget Office
  • A vast majority (88 percent) of businesses in the city employ less than 20 workers, while businesses employing 100 or more workers account for only 2 percent of all establishments.
  • Large businesses employ over one-third of all workers, with the remaining employees almost equally distributed across very small, small, and medium-size businesses.

IBO also classified businesses by their average hourly wages and industrial sector. By grouping businesses by average wages (low, medium, and high) and firm size (very small, small, medium, and large), we can see how closely their shares of employment and wages match.


  • Very Small businesses have a relatively small share of total wages (14 percent) compared with their share of employment (22 percent). Just over half of the 844,000 workers in these very small firms (51 percent) are employed in low-wage industries. This includes 182,000 who work in wholesale and retail trade. An additional 113,000 work in leisure and hospitality and 91,000 more are employed in other services.
  • In contrast, the share of wages paid by the city’s small businesses (21 percent) is much closer to these firms’ share of total employment (23 percent). Almost half of the 866,000 employees of small businesses work in low-wage industries such as leisure and hospitality (165,000 workers) and trade (150,000).
  • Medium-size businesses employ 795,000 workers and their wages are almost evenly divided among low-, medium-, and high-wage sectors. Employees in high-wage industries—including professional and business services, which employs 126,000 workers—receive about 60 percent of all wages paid by medium-size firms.
  • Of the 1.3 million employees of the city’s large businesses, 264,000 work in the high-wage professional and business services and financial services industries. Two low-wage industries in the large establishment category—trade and leisure and hospitality—employ 200,000 workers. Roughly half of all workers in large firms are employed in education and health services, which are medium-wage industries.

Prepared by Debipriya Chatterjee
 New York City Independent Budget Office

Print version available here.

SOURCES: IBO calculations of Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data provided by New York State Department of Labor

New York City By The Numbers

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How Much of the City’s Curbside Recyclables Get Properly Recycled?

New York City recycles a wide variety of waste, but some materials are more likely to be recycled than others. The city has three solid waste streams: refuse, paper recycling, and metal/glass/plastic recycling. Overall, about 44 percent of recyclable material is “captured” by city recycling programs with the remainder sent to landfills, according to data from the Department of Sanitation’s 2013 Residential Waste Characterization Study. But a lot of recyclables are thrown in the wrong bins—aluminum cans, for example, tossed in with regular trash. As a result, the capture rate for each of the recyclable materials varies widely, from as low as 5 percent to as high as 75 percent. Material that ends up in the refuse stream or the wrong recycling stream is not recycled. In fact, such “contamination” makes recycling more expensive.


  • Only about 28 percent of aluminum cans collected by the Department of Sanitation are captured in the metal/glass/plastic stream.
  • This below-average rate may in part reflect the more frequent scavenging of cans from the city’s recycling bins than trash cans. This takes aluminum cans out of the recycling stream, but leaves them in the refuse stream and headed to landfills. Aluminum is one of the most valuable recycled metals providing greater incentives for scavenging.


  • Plastic dishware, which includes single use plastic cups, plates, and cutlery, has the lowest capture rate—only 5 percent of the material collected enters the recycling stream.
  • Plastic dishware is part of rigid plastics, which was added as a voluntary category for recycling in 2013—during the Waste Characterization Study period. It did not become a required recycling category until after the study ended. It can take years for recycling rates to rise as New Yorkers learn about items added to the list of recyclables.


  • Green container glass has the highest capture rate of any material category, with 75 percent of this glass in the waste stream being recycled.
  • Glass has a long history of being recycled and public awareness is high, boosting the capture rate. Additionally, glass is not a valuable recycling commodity; only bottles that require a deposit have value outside the city waste stream.


  • Cardboard boxes and related paper products have one of the highest capture rates of any material, with 71 percent entering the paper recycling stream.
  • The city has a long and uninterrupted history of paper recycling. The high capture rate may also reflect the ease of recycling large foldable items like boxes.
  • Paper is the only material for which commodity prices exceed the cost of processing—meaning that New York City is paid to recycle paper.

Prepared by Daniel Huber
 New York City Independent Budget Office

Print version available here.

SOURCES: New York City 2013 Residential Waste Characterization Study

New York City By The Numbers

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