NEW YORK—William, an African American in his twenties from Brooklyn, works the trains. He goes car to car, selling candy and hustling money through gambling.

While most New Yorkers are familiar with street hustlers who bet that you can’t beat them in blackjack, William, or Billy, does it differently. He wagers that you can’t outsmart him in biology, physics, mathematics or literature.

William, who wouldn’t give his last name for fear that his relatives might read this article, was the first in his family to graduate college. He attended City College in Manhattan, worked hard, and graduated with a 4.0 G.PA.

But there was no job waiting for him after he graduated with high honors. Instead, he, like hundreds of thousands of other New Yorkers—especially Black and Latino—became part of the growing number of un- or underemployed.

Billy says he’s scared.

“Scared” and “shocked” are the two words that New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. used to describe his reaction when he saw the recent trends in city employment, trends that billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg has exacerbated.

There’s good reason for all this fear: More than one in seven New Yorkers were un-or- underemployed in the first quarter of 2009, and about 9.5 percent of all city households are affected by the phenomenon. That number is set to rise to 12 percent next year.

Since February 2008, the number of unemployed New Yorkers has jumped from 169,700 to 361,100 and will likely reach 400,000 by 2010. The unemployment figures reveal a shocking institutional racism: While the overall increase in the unemployment rate was 72 percent, it increased 167 percent for African Americans, to 14.7 percent.

“Last year at the same time,” said Thompson, “that number was 5.7 percent.”

Thompson’s office calculated the percentage of unemployed Latinos, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide those numbers. 9.3 percent of Latinos in the city, he said, are unemployed, compared to 3.7 percent of non-Latino whites.

“This gap shows that much more must be done to create opportunities for all New Yorkers,” Thompson said, “and much more must be done to help all those who’ve been affected by this recession.”

Responding to a question posed by the World on what the city should be doing to specifically address the inequities suffered by African Americans and Latinos, Thompson said, “One of the things we witnessed is the focus on retraining Wall Street workers at a cost of $45 million. I said then I thought that this was misguided, that this was money was misspent.” Thompson added that the city needs more job training and assistance for working people.

New York City’s workforce is majority African American and Latino, and higher income jobs, such as those in finance, are held predominately by whites.

The average duration of unemployment has increase as well: The amount of people who’ve been out of a job for more than 27 weeks has jumped by 119 percent to 95,600.

“Unfortunately our mayor continue to support polices that show he neither sees nor comprehends the struggles of working New Yorkers,” Thompson said, pointing out Bloomberg policies that “benefit a few at the expense of many.”

Thompson condemned Bloomberg for “closing the budget gap by increasing the sales tax, burdening families and small businesses, charging homeless families rent to live in shelters.”

“Last Friday,” Thompson said, “Mayor Bloomberg authorized raises worth $69 billion over two years for roughly 6,700 of his managers and non-union employees. He wants to hand out these raises after weeks of threatening to freeze the hiring of police officers, firefighters, school safety officers and EMTs. He wants to hand out these raises at the expense of cutting our schools, daycare programs and senior centers. He’s handing out these raises to his top managers while asking men and women to make sacrifices that will severely impact their future and their families.”

Of Bloomberg, Thompson said, “He’s out of touch with what’s going our city because he continues to offer proposals that put the rich person first and families last. I think we need a new approach.”

Thompson is the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for mayor, and is also running on the Working Families Party line.

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