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Study Shows Harlem and Washington Heights With City's Highest Unemployment

By DNAinfo Staff on December 22, 2009 7:59am  | Updated on December 22, 2009 12:50pm

A new study says unemployment rates vary widely among Manhattan neighborhoods.
A new study says unemployment rates vary widely among Manhattan neighborhoods.
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By Jon Schuppe

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN—Unemployment rates vary widely in different parts of Manhattan, from 5.1 percent on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side to more than 13 percent in Harlem and the rest of upper Manhattan, a New York research group said in a report released on Monday.

The study, published by the Fiscal Policy Institute, shows that the disparities grow starker when the numbers are broken down by race. The unemployment rate for whites in upper Manhattan is 4.6 percent. For blacks and Hispanics, it’s about 17 percent.

Drawing from data covering the third quarter of 2009, the study broke Manhattan into four sections: “downtown,” “midtown,” “east and west sides,” and “Harlem/Washington Heights” (which also includes Inwood). The unemployment rate was 9.1 percent downtown, and 7.6 percent in midtown. For all of Manhattan, the rate was 9.1 percent.

The institute’s data also shows that neighborhoods with low median household incomes have the highest unemployment rates.  

James Parrott, the institute’s chief economist, said the figures hint at troubling developments beneath the city’s 10 percent overall unemployment rate. In a gentrifying neighborhood such as Harlem, where whites are joining longtime black residents, many people are still in desperate financial straits, Parrott said.

“Harlem is a microcosm of what’s going on in New York City, where, yes, we have a high unemployment rate but it’s even higher in some communities,” Parrott said.

Last week, the state Labor Department announced that the city’s unemployment rate had dropped from a 16-year high of 10.3 percent in October.  Officials said it appeared as if New York City’s’ worst job losses were behind it, thanks to increased hiring by law firms and accounting firms.

But by publishing its study, the institute hopes to spread word that the picture remains bleak in some parts of the city.

“And we hope policy makers will use them to pass the reforms we need,” Parrott said.

Among the institute’s priorities is advocating for a boost in New York State’s unemployment insurance.