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African-Americans in New York hit harder by recession, data show

  • Story Highlights
  • Unemployment rose 72 percent overall, up 160 percent for African-Americans
  • Disparity caused by the number working in retail, service industries, official says
  • Comptroller's report predicts unemployed New Yorkers will reach 400,000 by 2010
By Kiran Khalid
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York City's African-American community is being devastated by the recession at an alarming rate, according to a report released Monday by the city comptroller

While unemployment in the city rose 72 percent overall from the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009, it surged more than 160 percent with African-Americans, according to the data. The unemployment rate among blacks rose to 14.7 percent, climbing four times faster than any other ethnic group.

National numbers did not show such a staggering difference.

Comptroller William C. Thompson said the disparity is caused in part by the disproportionate number of blacks in the retail and service industries, which were hit hardest by the recession. But he also lashed out at Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the state of the city's economy, calling him "out of touch." Thompson is challenging Bloomberg in the coming mayoral race.

Thompson is a Democrat; Bloomberg was elected as a Republican and now is an independent.

"I'm calling on the mayor to reconsider the raises he's agreed to shower on his top managers and nonunion employees," Thompson said. "To hand out these raises while on the other hand repeatedly calling for cuts to the rank-and-file is bad policy, it's bad government, and it is simply wrong."

Thompson said he was referring to raises for New York nonunion employees who make more than $90,000 a year.

The comptroller's report paints a grim forecast for the nation's largest city, predicting the number of unemployed New Yorkers will reach 400,000 by 2010.

A block away, the Rev. Al Sharpton held his own news conference Monday to call for a city summit to address the unemployment gap.

"This is a crisis in the black community," Sharpton said at the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan. "The numbers speak for themselves and the numbers are devastating."

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