The Bronx slashed unemployment by 14% over the past year, but still leads the state in joblessness

A person walks by the entrance of the New York State Department of Labor offices, which closed to the public due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Brooklyn borough of New York City
Findings from two separate reports by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli this month found that the Bronx has the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the state.
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The Bronx has done a lot to slash an unemployment rate that once hovered around 20% during the height of the pandemic. However, the borough still leads not only the city in unemployment, but all 62 counties in New York state with a rate of 8.6% entering August.

Historically, regional economist Bruce Bergman told the Bronx Times, the Bronx has been among the counties in the state (and in the New York metropolitan area, which includes 12 counties in New Jersey) with the highest rates of unemployment.

A year-over-year analysis shows that the Bronx did slash its unemployment by 14% from June 2021 to June 2022, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest data set.

The unemployment rate reflects the labor force status of residents, as opposed to payroll job numbers, which are focused on employers in a particular locale. Bergman said a few factors in the borough’s jobless rates are that a high concentration of its residents are prone to systemic employment challenges.

The Bronx has a large percentage of people under 18 and people without high school and college degrees, and a lack of credentials has traditionally shut workers out of their desired professions and the wealth accumulation that comes with them.

The COVID-19 pandemic further widened the gap for college credentialed workers and non-credential holders, and industries where college accreditation is prioritized — the technology sector for one — recovered quicker economically during the pandemic. Additionally, industries that do not require a degree like hospitality and retail — which included 19% of the Bronx workforce in 2021 — suffered mightily and are still struggling to go back to pre-COVID levels of stability.

Sixty-two percent of Americans over 25 have no bachelor’s degree, and that number rises to 72% for Black adults and 79% for Hispanic adults. And unemployment disproportionately affects Black and Latino jobseekers, a large share of the Bronx’s population.

The Economic Policy Institute reports that among the primary reasons are systemic racism and single adult households where one person tries to care for children and hold a full-time job at the same time.

The American Progressive reports that the gap between Black and white jobless rates goes back to 1972 when the Bureau Labor Statistics started to gather monthly employment data. In their report, they cite incarceration and barriers to educational attainment, the rate of which is higher among Blacks than whites as a key reason for disproportionate unemployment rates among these groups.

In 24/7 Wall Street’s Worst Cities for Black Americans report, they state “Black residents in these metro areas are much less likely to hold a high school diploma or college degree than white residents. Lower levels of high school attainment can drive down wages and make it more difficult to find a job.”

The citywide unemployment rate increased slightly from 6.1% to 6.2%.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes