Fenty, Gray talk unemployment

By Deborah Simmons-The Washington Times

Jobs. The one-syllable word remains a central theme in D.C. elections, where two Democrats, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, are vying to remain employed as the employment situation for other residents remains grim.

When Mr. Gray and Mr. Fenty were campaigning for their respective offices in the summer of 2006, the U.S. Labor Department reported the D.C. unemployment rate was 5.8 percent.

Last week, the agency set the rate at 9.8 percent – and it is an especially bad picture for residents who lack the skills and education to compete in a tough job market. In predominantly black Wards 7 and 8, for example, the jobless rates are 19 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

The jobless issue is particularly acute for Mr. Fenty, who won resoundingly in 2006, but now trails Mr. Gray in all polling.

Some areas of the city are hurting more than others. According to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, Ward 8 also had the highest unemployment rate in the city in 2009, and its average monthly jobless rate was 26.5 percent, compared to 2.9 percent for predominantly white Ward 3. Also, Wards 5, 7 and 8 had higher monthly average unemployment than the city as a whole in 2009. Those three wards also had the highest percentage-point increases in unemployment from 2008 to 2009, the institute said.

Mr. Gray hammers home those and other employment issues at every opportunity. In recent debates, Mr. Gray reminded voters that the Fenty administration failed to spend $4.6 million the council had appropriated for unemployed and underemployed adults during fiscal 2010, which ends Sept. 30.

The mayor did not dispute that, but he, his administrators and his supporters did offer explanations for the citys high unemployment numbers. For one, “the reality is, D.C. has always had higher unemployment rates than nationally,” the mayor said in a Sept. 1 debate.

As for the unspent local jobs funds, the Fenty administration focused instead on spending millions of federal dollars provided by President Obamas stimulus program.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/sep/5/jobless-rate-to-rise-by-1-in-dc/

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