State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s report on the impact of immigrants on the city’s economy shows a bright future for New York’s diverse enclaves in neighborhoods such as Jackson Heights, Coney Island and Elmhurst.
DiNapoli seemed optimistic that Mayor elect Bill de Blasio would find yesterday’s report reaffirming to many of his core campaign values.
“I think this report will be a validation of the direction I’m sure he is already planning on taking,” DiNapoli said of de Blasio at a roundtable discussion with ethnic media outlets at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism yesterday afternoon.
The report found that the city’s immigrant population, which accounts for 37 percent of the total population, represented 44 percent of the workforce in 2011 and also accounted for an estimated $210 billion in economic activity that year.
Immigrants had the highest employment shares in industries such as personal services, (nail salons and dry cleaning), automotive and repair services and construction, showing that the lion’s share of unskilled and low-paid work in the city is done by immigrants.
“Although immigrants make up significant shares of the workforce in lower-paying occupations, they are also well-represented in many higher-paying occupations,” the report says. “Among the occupations that employ the most immigrant workers, several require specialized skills, including physicians and surgeons, accountants and auditors and financial managers.”
The report showed, however, that such skilled occupations were not in the top 25 with the greatest number of immigrant workers.
“With immigrants facing a number of language barriers and credentials that don’t convert based on where they come, immigrants have sometimes more limited options for work, and that does take them into some industries that are lower paying,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for Urban Future. “So that includes a lot of home health aides and home health care.”
Deputy Comptroller Kenneth Bleiwas stated that there was no conclusive number of undocumented immigrants counted in the report. The report relied on census data, which simply asks people to state whether they are foreign born or native born, and does not ask people to self-report legal status.
Among other findings, the report showed that neighborhoods with high concentrations of immigrants had more than healthy economic activity. Kew Gardens and Woodhaven had a nearly 80 percent upshot in payroll, and Coney Island had a nearly 40 percent increase in new businesses, and a nearly 30 percent increase in employment.
“I think immigrants are one of the most overlooked engines of New York’s economy. They are contributing to almost every industry, both as part of the workforce but also as entrepreneurial spark plugs,” said Bowles.
Immigrant populations in the city were hit harder by the recession than native-born workers, the report showed, but bounced back quicker. Wages for foreign-born New Yorkers are now at near pre-recession rates.
DiNapoli said he looked forward to working with de Blasio to further support New York’s foreign-born workforce.