There's bad news and slightly less bad news in the unemployment data for August, released yesterday at a grim press conference held by Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, and state labor commissioner M. Patricia Smith. First, the bad news, if you're the kind of person who likes prosperity and abundance: The city’s unemployment rate rose from 9.5 percent in July to 10.3 percent in August, its highest level since May 1993. NYC's unemployment rate is now well above the national rate of 9.7 percent, and more than 415,000 residents are jobless. Paterson told reporters that Ben Bernanke's recent Pollyannaish pronouncement about the national recession being over "doesn’t apply to us."
The biggest cause of NYC's economic deathspin is, obviously, the collapse of financial industry and all the other job losses that rippled out from its crash. And commissioner Smith didn't try to sugarcoat it yesterday, telling the press, "Our economists don’t see the financial-services sector ever coming back as strong as it was."The Times describes officials' efforts to staunch the bleeding as "declaring a state of emergency," because the State Department of Labor is using a "national emergency grant" of $11 million in federal funds to help people laid off on Wall Street move into other fields. And according to Smith, most of these unfortunates aren't the big-shot Gordon Gekko guys; they're mid- and lower-level workers who did not earn millions of dollars a year.
The situation's dire statewide, too, with the unemployment rate climbing from 8.6 percent in July to 9.0 percent, bring the total number of unemployed outside the city to 874,300. (The highest since '83!) Paterson predicts another year of "tough sledding," while Bloomberg describes the job market as "tight." But don't gulp down that handful of pills yet! Bloomberg also says, "The city is losing jobs at less than half the rate of the rest of the country. This is an important sign that despite the challenges, people continue to be optimistic about the city’s future."