A report released today by the Fiscal Policy Institute contains dire news about the economic state of the Empire State. (The State of Working New York 2009)

If the 14.1 percent unemployment rate statewide isn’t bad enough, the study calculates that 27% of African American are unemployed. These figures are estimates of real unemployment (as opposed to official, where rates are also very high – 8.6 percent statewide and 9.6 percent in NYC. For African American men, the official figure is 18.3 percent.)

FPI economist James Parrott, the main author of the report, said that although African American men have always had higher rates of unemployment, “this jump of ten percentage points is an eye-popping increase from just a year ago.” African American women and Latina women are also suffering from much higher rates of unemployment, 18% and 19%, respectively.

An additional factor in the bleak picture is wages — New Yorkers’ total wages are projected to decline by 4.8 percent and their personal income by 2.7 percent in 2009.

Another issue is the weakness in New York State’s unemployment insurance system, which sets maximum unemployment benefits at $405 per week – lower than all neighboring states.

Although the federal stimulus package passed earlier this year has been criticized as inadequate, the FPI report cites components of the plan — state/local fiscal relief and aid to the unemployed, needy individuals, seniors and people with disabilities – as particularly helpful in New York. The programs and tax reductions in the bill will prevent an estimated 419,000 people in the state from falling below the federal poverty line this year.


For the full report go to http://www.fiscalpolicy.org/SOWNY2009.html