Bronx is tops – for unemployment x jobless rate spikes 11.8%

The Bronx is number one again…in unemployment.

In it’s latest monthly job numbers, the State Labor Department showed the borough suffered with an 11.8% jobless rate in June, up .06% from May.

The borough managed to inch out of being the top county in the state for joblessness in April when Hamilton County in upstate New York was ranked the worst.

But state officials have pointed to a silver lining – the numbers fared better from the same time a year ago when 13% of the Bronx was out of work.

“The Bronx improved more than any other borough,” said Elena Volovelskaya, a state labor economist.

Mid-year jobless figures often increase since high school and college students start pouring through classifieds.

They may have an easier time looking at the health industry, ranked as the number one employer in the Bronx. Retail trade comes second in employment.

But another factor contributing to the borough’s nagging jobless rate is non-English-speaking locals and poor education.

“Employment is tied to both education and proficiency in English,” said Volovelskaya.

The education trend is slowly showing signs of improvement, since more working and middle-class families are returning to the borough, according to the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. Putting a dent in the unemployment figure could be near a turning point, with several major commercial projects underway.

On top of three malls, a hotel and new hospital, the Bronx will now see FreshDirect set up its new headquarters in Port Morris.

The city’s Industrial Development Corporation awarded the online grocer $87 million in subsidies on Tuesday, July 23 to move from Queens to the Bronx.

“Not only will this project move 2,000 existing jobs to Mott Haven,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “It will create 1,000 new employment opportunities in our borough, and those are jobs we cannot afford to lose.”

A third of those jobs will go to Bronxites.

A plan to convert the Kingsbridge Armory into the world’s largest skating rink is now under review, bringing over 200 jobs, with developer Kevin Parker promising local hiring.

In seeing a swell of retail jobs in the pipeline, Volovelskaya expects progress since “retail employment tends to be local.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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