Brooklyn jobless rate continues to grow

After seven months of unemployment, Novia Watson, a single mother in Flatbush, said she’s cut down on the extras to pay for rent, light and gas.

Watson, 51, said she has “coped” since she lost her data-entry job, but believes her lack of income will start to affect her eight- and 13-year-old daughters.

Watson’s plight is becoming all too familiar as recent state Department of Labor statistics revealed that joblessness is shooting up in the borough.

About 11.2 percent or 126,200 of the borough’s 1.3 million workforce were on the unemployment lines in December. This is a half percentage point more than November statistics when 10.7 percent of Brooklynites or 121,100 were on the dole.

Brooklyn unemployment rate was also higher than the city (10.6 percent) and the country (10 percent) jobless rate.

A year ago, in January 2009, unemployment in Brooklyn was a mere 7.7 percent with only about 86,000 residents were on the dole.

“There are still far too many in our borough for whom economic and employment opportunities are few and far between, and that’s why creating jobs must remain ‘job one,’” said Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Markowitz said the borough’s high unemployment rate is deeply troubling, and his office has been proactive in creating employment opportunities throughout the borough.

This includes everything from hosting economic strategy sessions at Borough Hall to supporting job-creating projects in Coney Island, Gateway Estates Shopping Center, Atlantic Yards and the Navy Yard, he said.

Markowitz also pointed out that after the country bailed out banks, these institutions should be required to hire locally first.

“I will be reaching out to federal lawmakers and the presidents of New York City-based banks to urge them to consider opening up customer service call centers in places such as East New York — where the jobless rate exceeds 20 percent — not halfway around the world,” said Markowitz.

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carl Hum pointed out that some economists say that 2010 will be the bottoming out of the recession and perhaps that’s what is happening.

“This [unemployment figures] clearly calls for an action on the national level for a job creation program and possibly instituting wage subsidies to help small business and the business community to expand and employ people,” said Hum.

“This puts us even more on guard in protecting our business community from increased costs, unnecessary regulation and other burdens that make the day-to-day environment for our business community difficult,” he added.

The words of elected officials and business leaders rang hollow though as East Flatbush resident Felicia Harper, 53, went looking for work at the Workforce Center, 9 Bond Street, last week in Downtown Brooklyn after losing her client services job.

“I just have to buy the necessities,” she said, lines of worry etched on her face. “I only go to a restaurant or the movies once a month now.”

– with Toney Cella