Given the repeated distractions from bomb scares in Times Square and the ongoing fallout from finance industry investigations, New Yorkers probably missed the bleak employment study that Rutgers University released last week.
With the title, "No End in Sight: The Agony of Prolonged Unemployment," many people would probably have avoided reading the report even if they had noticed it. But the voices of the disenfranchised, the dispirited and the discontented recorded during the research would have certainly resonated with a lot of New Yorkers:
• "In 15 months of being unemployed I only had three interviews, and all three times was because I knew someone."
• "I settled for much less income."
• "The longer I am out of work, the less competitive I can be with people who are trained, or receiving ongoing training to maintain and increase skill levels. I am outdated and can't afford to update."
• "Although there is nowhere on a CV/resume that you state your age, employers can tell how many years you have worked. I have been interviewed for positions requiring experience by managers who are more than half my age, and they can barely contain their disdain - despite the fact that my work experience is greater than theirs."
Does any of this sound familiar?
New York City's unemployment rate fell to 10% in March from 10.2% in February, the third consecutive monthly decline, according to the latest figures from the New York State Labor Department. The rate was as high as 10.5% late last year. The city's private sector added almost 25,000 jobs in March, which is significantly more than the normal gain in the month. But economists caution against getting overly excited about a one month gain.
Still, unemployed workers are interested in any increase in jobs, especially if they can land one. But the Rutgers University report, which surveyed 1,202 men and women nationwide in August 2009, and returned in March 2010 to interview 908 people of the original group, found that 79% of those surveyed were still unemployed or out of the job market. "A dismal one if five (21%) of those looking for work last year had found it by March of this year," the report said. "Fully two-thirds (67%) remain unemployed and looking, with the remaining 12% having left the labor market."
As expected, the report showed that younger job seekers fared better than older ones. While 29% of those under 30 have found new jobs, only 21% of those between 30 and 49 had done so, and just 12% of those over 50 had found work. The report also said that job search pessimism is a threat to economic recovery and that 52% of unemployed people are somewhat or very pessimistic about finding a job, while 46% are simply unsure as to how long it will take to ever find work.
At this point might we ask, what about that jobs bill? Congress has made virtually no progress in creating broad legislation to increase employment. But President Obama noted last month that, by itself, government cannot replace the 8.2 million jobs lost over the past two years. What government can do, he said, is "help to create the conditions" for renewed hiring.
Even though a surprising 290,000 jobs were created in the overall economy in April, unemployment also rose, and economists calculate that it would take more than four years of similar job growth to replenish the job losses from 2008 to 2010.
Now that's scary.