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Unemployment worst for NYC blacks: Thompson

The rise in unemployment among African Americans in the city has outpaced by more than four times the jobless rate among white and Hispanic residents, a new report issued by city Comptroller William Thompson’s office found.

Nearly 85,000 more blacks were unemployed in the first quarter of this year than there were in the same quarter in 2008, according to a report from Thompson’s office released Monday.

There were 50,800 blacks unemployed in the city in the first quarter of 2008. That number rose to 195,700 in the first quarter of this year — a 166.7 percent increase.

Among whites, the jump was significant but not as dramatic.

There were 39,300 whites unemployed in the opening quarter of 2008 and 56,100 in the first quarter of 2009 — a 42.6 percent increase.

Hispanics had roughly the same percentage increase — 41 percent — as whites. More than 67,000 Hispanics in the city were unemployed in 2008 compared to 94,600 in 2009, according to Thompson’s report.

The report called the racial divide among unemployment “startling.”

“The usual pattern is that the unemployment rate among African Americans tends to be about twice as high as for non-Hispanic whites, but the gap has widened substantially in the city during the past year,” the report said.

Using the standard definition of unemployment — those who were not working during the week statistics were recorded but were available to work and made no effort to find employment in the last four weeks — 14.7 percent of blacks in the city were unemployed in the first quarter of this year, compared to 5.7 percent in 2008.

Among whites, 3.7 percent of the population was unemployed using the standard definition of unemployment in 2009 compared to 3 percent in 2008.

Expanded definitions of unemployment have been developed by labor economists who believe the standard definition is too narrow.

The city report used the expanded definition, which included all those considered unemployed by the standard definition plus those who have not sought work in the past four weeks but indicate they want to work and people working part-time but who desire full-time jobs.

Using that definition, 23.2 percent of blacks were unemployed in the first quarter of 2009 and 11.3 percent a year earlier — about a 12 percent increase.

Among whites, 9.5 percent of the population was unemployed in the first quarter of the year using that definition, compared to 6.4 percent in 2008.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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