Talent, as economists are realising, is what makes service economies grow. In many fields there is simply more of it in New York than anywhere else. Despite the cyclical downturn, the city boasts unique expertise in law, publishing, broadcasting, the arts, advertising, banking and entertainment.
This competitive advantage is so strong that big firms in these areas find it very difficult to leave New York. Some (though by no means all) manufacturers in the Fortune 500 have moved their corporate headquarters away from the city, but nearly all of the major service companies are still based here. The News Corporation is a good example. Rupert Murdoch considered moving the head office to Los Angeles, but was persuaded against it because virtually all of the major advertising buyers are in New York.
At the other end of the economy, the Big Apple still boasts the advantage that has been its lifeblood for centuries - immigration - and the new arrivals are a never ending source of enterprise and innovation. These days the Jews and the Italians have been replaced by the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, the Chinese, the Koreans, the Indians, the Dominicans, the Jamaicans, the Haitians and the Mexicans. Many of these newcomers were middle-class strivers in their own countries, and are the same in New York. The Asians, in particular, are immensely hard working. They have already transformed large swathes of Queens into bustling Asian business districts.
These developments are usually more or less ignored in media coverage of New York, which concentrates almost exclusively on black ghetto youths and white Wall Street high flyers. These stereotypes do exist, but they are only a small part of the city. New York is down, but it is by no means out.
(John Cassidy is a correspondent for The Sunday Times.)