Boro jobless rate hits five-year-low

Graphic by Ben Kochman and Jaime Williams

We’re not there yet, but at least it’s getting a little better.

The borough boasted its lowest January unemployment rate in the last five years, according to the State Department of Labor’s latest count.

From Jan. 2010 to Jan. 2014, the percent of Bronx country unemployed has sunk from 13.9% to 11.2 %.

That’s still high enough to rank the borough as the state’s most jobless county. But the Department of Labor says there’s reason to be optimistic that more jobs are on the way.

“We are by no means satisfied with the unemployment rate now, but we’re excited about the trend,” said Elbert Garcia, a DOL spokesman.

Slew of resources

Over 10,800 fewer people in the borough were unemployed this January compared to in January 2013, according to the state’s statistics.

The total raw number of Bronxites with jobs in January is a whopping 495,900—the largest employed job force on record since the state started keeping the stats in 1990.

Riding the coattails

The myriad retail and development projects in the Bronx pipeline should only increase the amount of jobs up for grabs.

“I am encouraged by this drop in unemployment, and my office will continue to put forward an aggressive agenda for development and job creation,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “As more of the major projects that are planned for the borough come to fruition, we expect that unemployment numbers in the Bronx would continue to improve.”

But the most important factor that explains why unemployment rate in the Bronx continues to creep down, said state labor economist Jim Brown, is the booming health of the citywide market.

More than half of the Bronx’s workforce commutes to another borough to work, Brown said. So it should be no surprise that the city’s unemployment has dipped as well, from 10.5 % in January 2010 to 8.1% this January.

Spikes in the tech industry, in construction jobs and demand for office space are just a few of the reasons more jobs are coming to the city, and by extension, to the Bronx.

“In general, Bronxites are benefiting from the strength of the city economy as a whole,” Brown said. “And there’s no sign that it will change course.”

Meanwhile, thousands more locals are finding jobs every year through state, city and local programs.

“It gives me piece of mind, knowing that I have a steady income coming in,” said Aaron Smith, a 49-year-old from Mott Haven who was hired this month as a residential nurse at a substance abuse housing site in East Tremont.

Smith used the resources at one of the state’s Bronx Career Center on E. Fordham Road to get connected with his employer. The state says it places around 19,000 Bronxites a year through its free centers.

Right now, the center is helping staff a new BJ’s coming into the former Stella D’Oro cookie factory lot in Kingsbridge, as well as staffing concession workers for the upcoming baseball season at Yankee Stadium.

Finding the skillset

A roadblock the centers often encounter is lack of college education, said program supervisor Maritere Arce. But the centers also fund grants to give locals specific skills for jobs that are in demand and that only require a high school diploma. Among those jobs:

•Bookkeeping, accounting, auditing clerks

•Clinical medical and nursing assistants

•Community Support specialists

•Armed and unarmed security guards

The Career Centers are not the only resource locals can use.

Rosie Rosado, who lives off of Moshulu Parkway, recently found a position at a nearby nursing home through the Bronx Library Center’s career and education information services department and career coach Robyn Saunders.

“They helped me not be nervous in my interview, to look them right in the eyes,” Rosado said. “Now I work just steps away from where I live.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

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