The North Fork’s unemployment figures in recent years show a bleaker picture than its sunny vacation shores might hint, as both Riverhead and Southold towns struggle with relatively high unemployment levels.
Riverhead is doing better than Southold, however. Riverhead’s unemployment rate has declined from a high of 8.9 percent in March 2010 to 6.8 percent, a relatively high number compared to figures for better economic times but better than Southold’s and the county’s levels.
Labor statistics for Southold are sketchy because New York State does not keep records of unemployment rates in towns with fewer than 25,000 residents, but deputy town supervisor Phillip Beltz has information from census analysts indicating that 9.8 percent of Southold’s residents were unemployed in 2009 — more than double the unemployment rate reported for the town in the 2000 Census.
The national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in July, the New York State Department of Labor’s most recent statistics show. The rate for all Suffolk County in July was 7.4 percent. In normal years, the figures are usually closer to about 3 or 4 percent.
The Suffolk County Department of Labor is launching a pilot program in Mattituck in late September to help North Forkers who are out of work but can’t get to Hauppauge to visit the county’s One-Stop Employment Center. Another satellite office of the One-Stop center is located at the County Center in Riverhead.
Mr. Beltz and Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell toured the One-Stop Employment Center recently to see what kind of services the county could supply in Southold.
“That center is one of the best-kept secrets. It’s a hidden jewel,” said Mr. Russell at a recent Town Board meeting. “The whole facility is set up for training, resumÃ writing and computer skills. A lot of the problem is not just with the bad economy, it’s with jobs you’re not getting back. You need to refit a work force.”
The county plans to start the pilot program in Mattituck by offering services once a month at the town’s Human Resource Center on Pacific Street, beginning Monday, Sept. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m. Residents who want to take advantage of the services can arrange an appointment for the Sept. 27 event by calling Sandra Berliner in Supervisor Russell’s office at 765-1889.
“We’ll send one of our best counselors out here, someone who’s cross-trained,” program director Marc Bossert told the Town Board at its Aug. 24 work session. “It will be a person who can get them going in the right direction if they’re stuck with unemployment claims, food stamps. We’ll help them with a comprehensive job search strategy. Unemployment is a very lonely situation. People don’t turn to friends because of the stigma. Being able to talk to a professional is one of the first big steps.”
County Department of Labor Deputy Commissioner Glenn McNab, a Southold resident, said that he hoped the One-Stop program in Southold would help people who are scraping by on part-time jobs but had previously had good careers.
“In this recession, higher-wage people in finance and banking industries have lost jobs. They’re not most likely going to go back into those jobs,” he said.
Mr. McNab said that professors at Stony Brook offer retraining classes at the Hauppauge and Riverhead offices, and that the county would like to establish similar programs in Mattituck.
“We don’t say, ‘You know what? You should be a plumber.’ It’s a customer-driven system,” said Mr. Bossert. “We put options on the table for them.”
Karen McLaughlin, who runs the Human Resource Center, said that she believed many young seniors who take advantage of the services at the center would benefit from career advice through the county program.