ALARMING JOB NUMBERS FOR JANUARY 2009 WARRANT IMMEDIATE RESPONSE
Commissioner Smith Issues Mandate on Behalf of Unemployed Capital Region Residents
Albany, NY (March 05, 2009) - As the state’s economy continues to reel, evidenced by the latest unemployment statistics released by the New York State Department of Labor this afternoon, State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith announced a series of immediate measures to help unemployed New Yorkers. These measures include: the expansion of hours of operation at One-Stop Career Centers across the state; the establishment of temporary One-Stop Career Centers located at local and community-based organizations in rural communities; and the delivery of career preparation workshops preceding Labor Department-sponsored job fairs. Governor David A. Paterson said, “The latest unemployment numbers, released today by the Department of Labor, are unprecedented and serve as stark reminder of the economic crisis that our State is facing. More than 125,000 New Yorkers have lost their jobs in the last six months. The increase in the unemployment percentage over the last two months is the largest such increase in New York State in at least 20 years. Currently, almost half a million New Yorkers are collecting unemployment checks.”
The Governor continued, “These numbers clearly demonstrate what we already know: New York is at the epicenter of this global economic crisis, and the worst is yet to come. For now, there is simply no way to know the full extent of the damage this crisis will have on the financial industry. We need to act now by making fundamental changes to the way our State government spends money while also using those resources at our disposal to help the unemployed during their time of need.”
“Like every other New Yorker, I’m flabbergasted by the latest figures released today,” said Commissioner Smith. “It’s important, though, that we put these numbers in perspective – they are not just statistics - they represent individuals, families and friends who are struggling under the weight of this recession. These New Yorkers are looking for immediate action, and it is up to the Department of Labor to deliver.”
Nationally, more than five million Americans are currently collecting Unemployment Insurance benefits. In New York State, the unemployment rate, after seasonal adjustment, increased from 6.6 percent in December 2008 to 7.0 percent in January 2009. The nation’s unemployment rate also increased over the same period, from 7.2 percent in December 2008 to 7.6 percent in January 2009.
In the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan area, the area's unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in January 2009, compared with 5.9 in December and 5.1 in January 2008. This is the area’s highest January rate on record (since 1990) and also represents the area’s largest January to January jump on record.
In the Glens Falls metropolitan area, the area's unemployment rate was 9.3 percent in January 2009, compared with 7.7 in December and 6.3 in January 2008. This is the highest January rate on record since 1993 and represents the area’s largest January to January jump since 1991.
Increased Hours at One-Stop Career Centers and Tel-Claims Centers:
A few months ago, thanks to additional federal funding provided through the Department of Labor, New York City was able to extend the hours of operation at One-Stop Career Centers in all five boroughs. Commissioner Smith today announced plans to extend hours of operation at even more One-Stop Centers across the state. This expansion will ensure that more New Yorkers have access to the services provided at these centers, which include resume workshops, on-line job searches and individual career counseling. For a listing of One-Stop Career Centers, please visit:
In addition, the Labor Department’s Tel-Claims Centers, which handle calls from Unemployment Insurance claimants, are now receiving calls until 7:00 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, which are traditionally the highest call volume days. Previously, the call centers were available until 5:00 p.m.
Traveling One-Stop Career Centers:
Today, Commissioner Smith announced that the Department of Labor will be working with local community groups and advocacy organizations to bring One-Stop services to New Yorkers in rural communities who ordinarily would have to travel great distances to access them. Temporary One-Stop Career Centers will be set up in locations such as local libraries, community centers and VFW halls. The Department’s community outreach vehicle, Labor on Wheels, will also be deployed to rural regions across the state to offer roving One-Stop services to individuals and their families.
On March 2, Governor Paterson announced that 34 rural counties in New York State have been approved to participate in a $250,000 initiative to make gas cards available to unemployed job seekers. Due to the great demand for these services since the Governor’s recent announcement, the Department of Labor is exploring new ways to expand the gas card initiative to metropolitan areas via public transportation vouchers for unemployed New Yorkers.
High-Quality Job Fairs:
Commissioner Smith committed the Labor Department to enhancing both the quality and accountability of local job fairs across the state in 2009 by attracting more employers with real job openings and tracking the number of individuals who are actually hired as a result of the events.
The Department of Labor will also expand services at local job fairs to include more training providers, and this will be piloted at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Job Fair, slated to take place in the Capital Region in April. This is extremely important in light of the fact that for every three unemployed workers, there is currently only one job opening available.
In addition, the Commissioner announced a new initiative to serve job seekers who may benefit from work readiness and enhanced job search assistance. Customized workshops, to be offered at local One-Stop Career Centers on afternoons before each Department of Labor-sponsored job fair, will make job seekers more marketable and employers more apt to hire these work-ready employees. This initiative will also be piloted in advance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Job Fair.
Shared Work Program:
The Commissioner also reminded all struggling companies in the state to take advantage of the Labor Department’s Shared Work Program, which gives employers an alternative to layoffs as they face a temporary decline in business. Rather than lay off a percentage of workers to cut costs, an employer can use this program to reduce the hours of all or a particular group of employees. In turn, employees can receive partial unemployment insurance benefits to compensate for their lost wages. Under the Shared Work program, participating employees do not see a reduction in their health insurance, retirement, vacation pay, or other fringe benefits. In February 2009, 355 Shared Work plans were approved statewide on behalf of 9,661 workers, compared to January 2009, when 239 Shared Work plans were approved on behalf of 6,685 workers. So far this year, more than 16,000 jobs have been saved by this program in New York State. Companies can apply for the Shared Work program by referring to:
Commissioner Smith continued, “These are uncharted waters, and there is no clear road map as to how far down this economic slide will take us. Regardless, it is our responsibility at the Department of Labor to do everything in our power to lift struggling New Yorkers and their families out of this crisis. These measures are a step in the right direction and we are hopeful they will succeed. Regardless, we will continue to do whatever is necessary to help stem the tide for workers in this state.”
For more information about the Department of Labor and its services, please visit www.labor.ny.gov.