City’s Jobless Rate Continues to Rise Faster Than Job Creation Rate

Updated 5:45 p.m. New York City keeps on adding jobs but not fast enough to stop its unemployment rate from rising.

That was the seemingly contradictory message delivered on Thursday in the latest report from the New York State Department of Labor. It showed that the city’s unemployment rate rose to a 20-month high of 9.6 percent in February, up from 9.3 percent in January.

But it also said private-sector employers in the city added more than 25,000 jobs last month, about 50 percent more than the norm in February. Counting that gain, the city added 65,200 jobs over the past 12 months, an increase of 2 percent, the Labor Department said. That was only slightly lower than the 2.1 percent increase in the number of private-sector jobs in the country over the same period.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg chose to emphasize the job gains, saying, “Our investments in the city’s growing industries — like the technology sector and film and television production — are now paying off, but we still have a lot more work to do to improve opportunities for all New Yorkers.”

So far this year, the city’s unemployment rate has been climbing while the national rate has been falling. The city’s rate is its highest since June 2010, said Elena Volovelsky, an economist with the Labor Department.

Ms. Volovelsky said there were several possible reasons for the divergence in the numbers on employment and unemployment, a constant one being that they are derived from separate surveys of employers and city residents. Another reason, she said, could be that many of the jobs being created are going to people who commute to work from outside the city.

“We saw a lot of gains in professional and business services, a sector that pays high salaries and attracts workers who come in from outside the city,” Ms. Volovelsky said. (Professional and business services include law and accounting firms and agencies that provide temporary workers.)

Indeed, about two-thirds of all of the private-sector jobs that have been added in the city in the last year have come in two sectors: professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, which includes hotels, museums and restaurants.

James Parrott, an economist with the Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal research organization, said he thought a more likely explanation was that a significant number of New Yorkers who had been freelancing or working as consultants had found permanent jobs with the sort of companies surveyed every month by the Labor Department. Those transitions would add to the jobs count but would not reduce the unemployment rate.

Mr. Parrott said the city’s job market appeared to be healthy, but added: “I don’t think it’s quite as glowing as the mayor might want people to believe it is. Unemployment is still very high and there are challenges for many people who have been unemployed for a long time.”

The share of adults in the city who were working was at a two-year low, 54.1 percent, which is a full 2.5 percentage points lower than it was four years ago, before the financial crisis hit.

Statewide, the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent, from 8.3 percent in January. More than 806,000 state residents were unemployed in February, though only 55 percent of them were receiving unemployment benefits.

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