Buddy, can you spare a job: unemployment rises

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After several months of stagnation, Brooklyn’s unemployment rate is again on the rise, according to recent New York State Department of Labor (DOL) statistics.

As of May, 9.2 percent of the borough’s reported working people were unemployed, about equal to the national unemployment rate of about 9.5 percent, but more than the city’s 8.7 percent unemployment rate.

The figure represents about 103,500 people who are out of work as compared to 56,500 in May 2008. The labor force in the borough is listed at about 1.125 million

In January, the borough’s unemployment rate was 7.70 percent and in April it was 8.4 percent.

“Some of the increase can be attributed to borough residents laid off last year as part of the reductions in the financial and ancillary sectors such as law firms and who received severance packages, but are appearing on the unemployment rolls now for the first time,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carl Hum.

Hum said that like the rest of the nation, Brooklyn is seeing job losses in nearly every sector including retail and construction and professional firms related to construction such as the architecture field.

If you follow the national trends, the largest drop off is in construction, retail and manufacturing, said Hum.

On the positive side, Hum noted the only sector that has gained jobs is in health care, which is the borough’s largest private employer.

Brooklyn is well positioned in this field as one out every five jobs, or about 89,000 jobs out of 432,000 private sector jobs in the borough is in health care, he said.

Marilyn Gelber, executive director of the Independence Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Brooklyn that looks at work force, affordable housing and economic development, said Brooklyn is different than other major urban hubs in that it doesn’t have much a front office corporate presence.

For the most part, the borough labor market is in back office space and a diverse small business base, she said.

“This small business climate will allow Brooklyn to go in a more positive direction,” said Gelber. “Brooklyn has a vibrant creative economy with a lot of independent contractors and workers.”

Ed Brown, president of the Ingersoll Public Housing development in Downtown Brooklyn, said even before the recent economic crisis, there was a 55−60 percent unemployment rate for black males in public housing.

“My focus is in trying to find employment for a lot of young men in the neighborho­od,” said Brown.

Brown said while the Atlantic Yards project will help spur development, it will take a wider range of projects and the community working together with educational and social developments to increase employment opportunities.

“It’s not looking good to have young men running around the neighborhood without a means of income. That’s a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Updated 3:33 pm, October 19, 2011
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