BY LEANNA ORR
HOST: Numbers out this week from the Department of Labor show that just over one and a half million people applied for unemployment in February
That’s a four-year low.
These numbers are the latest in a string of optimistic reports that suggest the US labor market is gaining momentum.
But not all New Yorkers are seeing much improvement.
Leanna Orr reports.
ORR: The Workforce One center is on the corner of 149th and Courtlandt Avenue in the Bronx, and the waiting room is full. Addy Casta is outside looking through the glass door. She’s new to this. For the last 21 years, she worked in customer service at a major car rental agency.
CASTA: I’ve been disabled since July, and when it was time for me to come back last month, they just decided not to hire me back. (0:09)
ORR: Casta thinks her employer acted dishonestly, but she thinks the economy is mostly to blkame. She’s even thinking of changing her vote in November.
CASTA: All my life I’ve been Democratic, but I’m thinking of going Republican. This is just getting too ridiculous. (0:08)
ORR: New York State Department of Labor economist Elena Volovelsky admits that in these conditions, companies like Casta’s do try to get away with more.
VOLOVELSKY: Obviously when the unemployment rates are higher, we’re seeing high incidents of employers taking advantage of individual cases…where something should not have happened. (0:09 )
ORR: There may be fewer people applying for unemployment now, and even Addy Casta isn’t planning to apply yet. She may not need to. Volovelsky says things have actually been improving in the city for the past two years:
VOLOVELSKY: We didn’t experience as deep of a recession as the rest of the US economy, and we came out of the recession a little bit earlier than the rest of the country as well. (0:12)
But the problem for people like Casta is how long they remain unemployed.
Speaking to Congress this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said there are hazards of long-term unemployment:
BERNANKE: People who are out of work for six months or more will be starting to lose skills, and they’ll be losing their attachment with the labor force they won’t know what’s happening in their field or industry. (0:09)
ORR: Bernanke says that urgent job creation for these people is the best way to get the labor market back to normal.
In the Bronx, Addy Casta is starting to look in her field, customer service, and isn’t sure what kind of openings she’ll find there. Casta says she’ll basically take anything at this point.
Leanna Orr, Columbia Radio News.