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Boro immigrants make gains

The top three neighborhoods in the city with the largest percentage of immigrants are in Queens, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said last week in a report that showed newcomers make a strong contribution to theurban economy.

DiNapoli’s report showed Elmhurst led the neighborhoods, with 68 percent of its population foreign-born. Jackson Heights was next with 64 percent, followed by Sunnyside and Woodside, which were 58 percent immigrant, the report said, citing figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Flushing and Whitestone were ranked fifth, with 52 percent of the population foreign-born, followed by Forest Hills and Rego Park at 51 percent and Kew Gardens and Woodhaven at 50 percent.

“New York City remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for immigrants from every nation,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Immigrants built New York City and drive its economy — in fact, foreign-born workers accounted for $215 billion in economic activity in 2008, almost a third of the gross city product. It’s clear how invaluable newcomers are to the city’s economic life.”

But while the number of businesses and the payroll increased in Jackson Heights, the size of the workforce decreased by about 8 percent between 2000 and 2007, the report found. In Sunnyside and Woodside, the workforce declined by about 2 percent while the number of businesses and payroll size grew.

Other neighborhoods at the top of the list had growing workforces. Elmhurst and Corona had their workforce expand by about 9 percent between 2000 and 2007.

Flushing and Whitestone saw their workforce grow by about 9 percent, while Forest Hills and Rego Park saw an 18 percent growth and the Woodhaven-Kew Gardens area saw a 16 percent growth in workforce.

DiNapoli’s report, which draws from U.S. Census data, may not tell the whole story, however. The nonprofit think tank Center for an Urban Future’s 2007 report on immigrants’ contribution to the city’s economy indicated that the number of jobs in Jackson Heights grew by 28 percent between 1994 and 2004.

In Queens, immigrants make up more than half the workforce — a greater share than in any other borough, the report found. Immigrants form the majority of workers in most industries in Queens, with the lowest representation in government and utilities, DiNapoli’s office said.

The report also found that more than 1.9 million immigrants work in New York City, comprising 43 percent of the total workforce.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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