Two days after Yale University pledged to hire 500 New Haven residents over the next two years, community activists, union members, Alders, and even Mayor Toni Harp, rallied for a broader commitment by the largest local employers to fixing what is being described as a “jobs crisis”-a U.S. Census-reported 14.3 percent unemployment rate in a city where just less than a quarter of the 83,000 opportunities are filled by non-residents.
“There is a jobs crisis,” said Reverend Scott Marks, a volunteer with New Haven Rising, which organized the rally and march. “We need to be real about who this crisis affects.”
Well, everyone, but some more than others, Marks said.
As of 2012, the unemployment rate for African Americans in New Haven was almost 15 percent-compared to 8.8 percent for white residents, according to CT Data Haven. For Latinos, it was 15.7 percent.Citing U.S. Census data, New Haven Rising reports that it has since grown to 18 percent for African Americans and 20 percent for Latinos.
That reflects a tendency for residents of low income neighborhoods such as The Hill, Fair Haven, Dixwell, and Newhallville to bear the brunt of the crisis, elected officials said at the rally outside City Hall. CT Data Haven’s community survey reported an almost 18 percent unemployment rate for the city’s low-income neighborhoods.
“We have to act now,” Mayor Harp said. “Streets are safer when people are working. Families are more stable and secure when parents are working. Children are more able to concentrate on education, and young people have more positive role models.”
The Mayor pledged to pursue local transportation initiatives in order to “connect residents with job opportunities”, establish programs to help those with criminal records navigate the search process, and provide more training for higher-paying work.
Regarding the latter, elected officials have also emphasized that there are a number of residents with relevant skills already-a few months ago the New Haven Black and Hispanic Caucus presented a pile of 500 resumes belonging to unemployed residents that were determined by New Haven Works’ screening process to be qualified for jobs in the city.
“There are thousands of unemployed people that shouldn’t be,” said Alder Santiago Berrios-Bones, who heads the Black and Hispanic Caucus. “There are 500 that are qualified, and should be in jobs right now. Five hundred potential home owners. Five hundred people who will take pride in our city and make it better.”
They’re unemployed, underemployed-1 in 3 residents, according to CT Data Haven.
Rodney Heard can relate to the latter.
“I have two young boys,” Heard said. “I’d do everything I can for them, but it’s difficult for me to be the role model I can be for them without having a steady job. “We live check to check in dead end jobs. Where are the jobs? They’re right here, in our backyard.”
And between 2002 and 2012, the city saw the number of them increase by 5 percent, according to CT Data Haven. But in 2011, 31 percent of New Haven’s jobs were filled by locals, according to the Connecticut Center for New Economy.
Then there’s the issue of living wage work. That, obviously, varies depending on individual need, but a family of four-for example-would need each parent to be working full-time for at least $20 per hour, according to A Project of Wider Opportunities for Women’s Best Initiative Basic Economic Security Tables for Connecticut, one of the reports cited by New Haven Rising when it launched its jobs campaign in the fall.
Going by that rate, only 19 percent of the city’s 47,452 living wage jobs are filled by New Haven residents, with 4 percent going to those from low-income neighborhoods, according to CT Data Haven.That means that the underemployed often feel over employed.
“I work three jobs to make ends meet,” Feldman said. “I have a college degree.”
The New Haven Rising volunteer is standing in front of the Yale University construction site just outside Ingalls Rink.
The rest of New Haven Rising’s supporters-hundreds that marched from City Hall to the spot-are gathered in front of her.
“We are standing at this construction site because we are constantly seeing billions of dollars worth of buildings rising before our eyes, but New Haven residents are not rising with them,” Feldman said.
So Mayor Harp and New Haven Rising are calling on the city’s two biggest employers-Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital-to work to “end the jobs crisis”. Mayor Harp took it a step further, urging the City of New Haven to make more of an effort to hire local candidates.
The University has already pledged to take a step in that direction, but Tyisha Walker, President of the Board of Alders, wants to make sure that struggling communities are not passed over.