September 7, 2013 | 5:04pm
An economic malaise is creating a new underclass in the city.
New York City is stuck in the economic misery lane of middle-class jobs flight and an unemployed and underemployed class faced with long-term joblessness and rising hunger, according to the latest economic research.
The city is emerging from the worst of the Great Recession, but this so-called recovery is nothing to write home about.
The unemployment rate is 8.4 percent and has eclipsed the nation’s average. More disturbing, the city’s “underemployment” rate surpassed New York state’s by just over 1 point.
The city’s “underemployment” rate stood at 14.8 percent in the first half of 2013.
That figure counts the underclass of workers officially unemployed, working part time, or who are no longer counted as unemployed but are willing to work, according to an analysis of New York State Department of Labor data by New York’s Fiscal Policy Institute.
“We do have an issue with lower-paying jobs coming in, and Wall Street is not back to where it was before the recession,” said Jim Diffley, regional economist for IHS Global Insight. “There have been a lot of job gains in the leisure and hospitality sectors.”
But on the whole, these jobs do not have the pay or benefits of the jobs lost in banking or other middle-class vocations.
Since April 2008, when the recession started, the Empire State has had net gain of 100,000 jobs.
That’s after a bruising loss of 131,000 middle-wage jobs (paying between $45,000 and $75,000 a year) and a further loss of 51,000 higher-wage jobs.
Many of the job gains are concentrated in New York City, but in lower-wage industries like restaurants, home health care and retail.
And while New York state has regained the jobs lost during the recession, it’s now nursing a jobs deficit of 156,000, the study notes.
That number represents the jobs needed to keep pace with population growth so that the ratio of jobs to working-age population returns to the pre-recession ratio. (Employers nationwide added 169,000 jobs in August, slightly below forecasts. The national unemployment rate dipped to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent. Yet the rate drop was mostly because workers dropped out of the labor force.)
New York City’s economic malaise runs deep.
“Much of the job growth that has occurred has been in jobs that will make it hard to build a stable future for working New Yorkers,” a Fiscal Policy Institute report says. “Trends have continued in which New York has lost tens of thousands of middle income jobs in manufacturing, construction and government.”
Janice Lebby, a 49-year-old single mom of three, sees both sides of the city’s malaise. She’s a coordinator at the Brooklyn soup kitchen Christian Help in Park Slope .
“It’s a tough situation, I never saw it coming,” Lebby told The Post after her hours were reduced to 20 from 40 hours weekly. Lebby says she now takes home “several hundred dollars” a week, has had her health benefits eliminated since Sept. 1 and has no other outside financial support. She does not qualify for unemployment benefits.
Like nearly 2 million other New Yorkers, Lebby expects soon to be counting on food stamps to help feed her family; her monthly rent comes to $1,000. She will be one of more than a half-million local recipients added since the start of 2009.
Last week, the Department of Agriculture reported that 48.9 million Americans were “food insecure,” which means at some point they didn’t or don’t have adequate access to food. That number has been basically unchanged since 2008.
New York state, however, saw a significant increase — from 12.4 percent of households in 2011 to 13.2 percent.
And 23 percent of households in the Bronx are now food insecure.
Food pantries and local charities are stretched to their limits.
“All the indicators, the research and studies, point to more people struggling. Poverty in New York City is at its highest levels in decades,” Kate MacKenzie, director of policy and government relations at City Harvest, the charity serving hunger relief agencies and food pantries in New York, told The Post.