THE BRONX — In many ways, The Bronx is galloping forward, leaving its darker days in the dust, a new state report shows — its population is up, crime is down and, while the city and country shed jobs during the recession, The Bronx added them.
But a wide gulf still separates the borough from the rest of the pack — its housing is unaffordable to many residents, its unemployment rate is the state’s highest and its share of poor residents is larger than in any other urban county in the nation.
“There is still work to be done,” said state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who released the new economic report Thursday. “But The Bronx is moving in a positive direction.”
From 2007 to 2012, the period of the Great Recession and recovery, The Bronx enjoyed a net gain of 15,300 jobs, with private-sector employment expanding by nearly 8 percent, the report shows. The health care field saw the most gains, with 5,200 jobs added.
It was the only borough where annual employment did not drop during the recession, the report notes.
Total wages paid for all private-sector jobs in The Bronx reached a record $9.3 billion in 2012, according to the report.
The Bronx’s average private-sector salary of $43,610 in 2012 bested the averages in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Still, the average salary has shrank over the past few years.
The number of Bronx businesses has swelled in the past decades, particularly in the South Bronx, where the growth rate was a whopping 25 percent from 2000 to 2011.
Most of the borough’s 16,404 businesses in 2011 were small, with the largest share devoted to retail, the report shows.
As in the rest of the city, crime has tanked in The Bronx.
Serious crimes plummeted by 75 percent since 1990, the report notes. And last year, the borough saw its homicide rate sink to its lowest level since 1963 — though it still outpaced every borough but Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, The Bronx’s population has ballooned by 20 percent since 1980, attracting 240,000 more people in that period to reach 1.4 million residents in 2012 — a recovery of nearly three-quarters of the population that fled the borough in the 1970s, the report says.
“More people are choosing to raise their families in The Bronx,” including many immigrants, DiNapoli said, citing the crime reductions and abundant public transportation.
Still, the borough’s steady economic growth is relative.
While The Bronx added jobs during the recession, median income plunged by 13.5 percent from a peak in 2007 to $32,058 in 2011 — nearly double the citywide decline rate, according to the report.
As income sloped, poverty surged, so that by 2011, 30.4 percent of Bronx residents lived in poverty — the highest such rate in the state or among any urban county in the U.S., the report says.
Unemployment also spiked during the recession.
In May, The Bronx’s jobless rate sat stubbornly at 11.2 percent — higher than any other New York county and high above the city’s rate of 8.3 percent, according to the state Labor Department’s non-seasonally adjusted figures.
A major cause is limited schooling, the comptroller’s report says.
Nearly a third of Bronx workers in 2011 had no high school diploma and less than one-fifth (17 percent) had a college or advanced degree — lower levels of educational attainment than in any other borough, the report notes.
Finally, many Bronx residents still struggle to afford a place to live.
Over the past quarter-century, the city has created or rehabilitated 112,000 Bronx housing units, with the private sector adding thousands more, the report says.
Still, a larger share of Bronx families is homeless than elsewhere in the city — its rate is double the size of the citywide share.
And while average rents are cheaper in The Bronx, because of the lower median income, rent devours a bigger portion of paychecks in The Bronx than in any other borough, the report says.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. acknowledged on Thursday the challenge that housing presents many residents.
He promised that the city would continue to build or convert affordable housing units in The Bronx and that he would push employers to pay workers higher wages.
“The Bronx is making great progress towards a brighter future,” he said.