Unemployment

When Unemployment Hits, and Lingers

Posted on Monday, November 22, 2010

Joblessness in New York is not a recent phenomenon. Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the city has been shedding jobs. But as recently as two years ago, the city’s jobless rate was 5.8 percent; it is now 9.3 percent, down from 10.6 percent in January.
And unemployment affects New Yorkers disproportionately. According to a report released in October by the city comptroller, the unemployment rate for blacks is three times the rate for whites: 15.3 percent in the third quarter of this year, versus 5.3 percent. For Hispanics, the unemployment rate during that period was 13.3 percent.
On Dec. 31, 95,000 New York City residents will exhaust their unemployment benefits. On May 1, 2011, that number will double, with 190,000 additional people losing their benefits. Some of those people have extended their benefits for a record 99 weeks. And those former workers’ skill sets run the gamut: One so-called 99-weeker worked as an electrician and maintenance person; some are in the health care field; many are fluent in computer skills and never let their laptops out of their sight for fear of missing a moment of an all-encompassing job search.
The highest possible weekly unemployment wage former workers can receive, based on prior income level, is $405. It is a meager sum compared with what they made before. When their benefits run out, some will have to apply for public assistance. Most will not get it, but for those who do, it pays $130 a week. For most, that would cover about three days’ rent.
The situation is so dire that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has teamed up with Spider-Man, a fictional superhero (from Queens, it should be noted), to promote the city’s career centers in a pamphlet produced by Marvel Comics. It makes sense — after all, in the last film, Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker, was laid off from his photography job at The Daily Bugle. By JENNIFER MASCIA
New York Times


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