Queens unemployment hits 9.2 percent as shelters reopen

Jamaica resident Michael Thomas visits a food pantry. He said he lost his job in private sanitation and has been looking for employment. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Howard Koplowitz

More than 2,500 additional Queens residents found themselves on the unemployment rolls from September to October, according to the latest state Labor Department figures.

Slightly more than 9 percent of Queens residents — 9.2 percent — were without work in October, according to a report released by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) office Friday. In September, 9.1 percent of Queens residents were unemployed.

That figure from October is almost in line with the unemployment rate nationwide of 10 percent.

Only Brooklyn, with 126,000 unemployed, has more residents without work than Queens.

Queens is tied with Manhattan in percentage of unemployed at 9.2 percent — tied for the third worst in the city.

The highest unemployment rate in the city belongs to the Bronx, with 72,900 — or 13.4 percent — unemployed, according to the report.

In an effort to lower those unemployment numbers, Gillibrand is floating the idea of giving tax credits to businesses that create jobs.

“Families across New York have been hit hard by this economic crisis, leaving thousands without jobs and reduced income to pay bills and put food on the table,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “The job creation tax credit would encourage business to begin hiring now instead of waiting for the economy to stabilize further — delay which puts the recovery itself at risk.”

“It would create millions of new jobs at a time when unemployment is continuing to rise and nearly 850,000 New Yorkers are out work,” the senator said. “Giving the private sector an incentive to create jobs is a good way to strengthen the economy, providing jobs for those hit hardest by this recession.”

The senator announced that she is also pushing for legislation to address the borough’s hunger problem. Roughly 88,000 borough residents are insecure and hundreds of food pantries are cutting back on services, according to Gillibrand.

Shesaid she will be co-sponsoring four Senate bills that would increase tax incentives for businesses, hunters and farmers that donate their surplus foods, increase tax incentives for those who donate to charities that feed people and increase the amount of federal funding for food pantries.

“These statistics are unacceptable and no child should have to be hungry,” she said in a conference call. “We need to do more to end food insecurity.”

Meanwhile, the city has allowed eight faith-based homeless shelters in Queens to re-open after they were closed last year.

“The respite bed program has been restructured to better serve our street clients than ever before,” said city Department of Homeless Services spokeswoman Kristy Buller. “Through strong partnership with the faith-based community, we will assist more individuals to move from the streets into beds — which is important in improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers. Working together, we have knitted a network of faith-based shelters in Queens and across the city that warmly incorporates any congregation wishing to help us house New York’s most vulnerable population.”

Ivan Pereira contributed to this story.

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

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