Special to the JTA Jewish Unemployed in the New York Area
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Special to the JTA Jewish Unemployed in the New York Area

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At least 55,000 Greater New York Area Jews are unemployed, and the number could increase unless existing training and job-creation programs are strengthened, according to two studies.

Prof. Herbert Bienstock, director of the Queens College Center for Labor and Urban Programs, Research and Analysis, who conducted the studies for the Federation Employment and Guidance Service (FEGS), a UJA-Federation agency, also warned that the figures are conservative. They include only persons registered at federal employment centers, not part-time workers, recent college graduates or people who have given up looking for work.

Bienstock, whose study on Jewish unemployed was completed in November, said the total number of jobless or underemployed Jews in the metropolitan area — New York area. City and Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties — may be as high as 160,000, with 105,000 in the city’s five boroughs. The reported figures in the study, he said, estimate between 35,000 and 45,000 jobless Jews in the city and 15,000 to 20,000 in the rest of the area. But Bienstock also noted that the total Jewish unemployment rate in the area is below the 6.1 percent of the total general jobless rate in the metropolitan area. He said he found that the majority of unemployed Jews are college graduates and middle-level managers. His report did not show the total number of Jews employed in the area labor market.


Bienstock’s other study, a still unpublished demographic report based on interviews with 600 Jewish clients who sought assistance from FEGS in 1985, showed the following preliminary findings:

The Jewish unemployed are mostly adults, between 18 and 55.

About 30 percent of area Jews who go to FEGS for help have management backgrounds. Another 35 percent have clerical experience, and about 8 percent are manual workers. The remaining 27 percent are classified as “miscellaneous.”

Unemployed Jews in New York tend to be better educated than the general population. About 75 percent of FEGS clients had attended college; 57 percent had undergraduate degrees, and more than half of those had finished graduate school. Only a negligible number had failed to complete high school.

Some 60 percent of FEGS clients wanted permanent jobs. About 16 percent wanted counseling, and 12 percent sought additional training.

Gail Magaliff, associate executive vice president of FEGS, said the unemployment figures confirm that the New York economy has been shifting — from manufacturing industries that employ many production workers and a large number of middle-level managers, to service enterprises that require information processors and other white-collar employees.

According to Labor Department statistics, the number of jobs in New York City reached a 12-year-high of 3.5 million in 1985, largely because of growth in such fields as finance, insurance, communications, and international trade. By contrast, manufacturing jobs declined by 18 percent between 1981 and 1985. Such changes have serious social and economic implications, Magaliff said. Many of the manufacturing jobs lost, including those in the garment and jewelry industries, had traditionally provided entry-level work for untrained people.

“People need more training these days, even for low-level office jobs,” she said. Many entry level clerical positions require word-processing and other advanced skills. Even years after the trend was recognized, she said, employers still have trouble finding people with the skills now needed.


To take advantage of the continuing shortage of skilled employees, and to combat Jewish unemployment, UJA-Federation has allocated $295,000 for the current fiscal year to the $632,000 FEGS Jewish Emergency Employment Program. Some 3,596 Jews from throughout the area take part in the program, which includes career guidance, skills training, psychological counseling, and other assistance.

The clients include middle-level managers who lost their jobs when companies closed or relocated; heads of single-parent families; women returning to the work force; Russian immigrants; and recent college graduates.

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