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More than 1.6 million New Yorkers aren’t getting enough hours in their work week, according to a new report. That number represent’s a staggering 45 percent of the local labor force, or 1 in 2 workers, who are underemployed in the Big Apple.

The Robin Hood Poverty Tracker, a New York-based nonprofit organization which assists poorer communities in association with Columbia University, announced the alarming statistic. According to The New York Post, the “massive ranks of these underemployed” New Yorkers may continue to grow as “many New York employers slash hourly payrolls while the minimum wage rises to $15 an hour.”

In the first year of the raise hike, small business owners were required to raise the hourly rate to $12, an increase of $1.50. Some employers have eliminated many low-wage jobs, while some reduced the hours employees worked, to accommodate the hike.

Now, many its residents are underemployed, taking experts by surprise.

Steven Lee, a managing director at Robin Hood, which the Post notes was founded by “Wall Street titans,” said he was personally surprised by the results.

“These new results underscore the fact that low-income New Yorkers don’t need just any job. What they need are good jobs that will provide enough hours, pay a living wage and help them move out of poverty,” said Lee.

One worker affected by the underemployment problem is Sixta León Barite, a 56-year-old resident of Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, who has been unable to find more work in New York City without much success.

The NY Post reports:

Employers everywhere in the city are cutting back staff hours as the city raises the minimum wage, and as more workers are suffering. 

A native of Mexico, León sees nothing but expanding labor hardship. She can now only find work cleaning homes for $100 daily, twice a week. [When she] immigrated to New York 27 years ago, her dreams were being fulfilled with plenty of steady, decently paid work in local factories, many of which are now gone.

[León’s] partner works at a local fruit vendor, packing and unloading. His employer recently raised hourly rates for its workers in line with the mandated minimum wage increases, but then immediately cut staff back from some 40 hours to 38 hours weekly to offset the costs. 

According to the Post, the Department of Labor puts New York City’s unemployment rate at 4.7 percent, and underemployment at  8.7 percent.

Robin Hood uses a more specific metric than the Department: workers who are working fewer hours than they would like. Their number, 1.6 million underemployed people exceeds the entire population of Philadelphia.

“The headline number just shocks me. It is extremely high,” said Professor Constantine Yannelis at the NYU Stern School of Business.

Yannelis says people probably leave the city if they are underemployed, because residents don’t “hang around” when they aren’t earning enough, due to the city’s high cost of living.

“There has been a significant hollowing out of the middle class in New York City over the past 20 years,” said Yannelis.

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