Unemployment Plagues Atlantic City Outside Tourism District [SERIES]
This is the second part of a five-day series exploring Atlantic City’s revitalization efforts. Read the full series here.
Atlantic City is known for its opulent casinos, world class entertainment, and high end shopping. However the reality of the city is much different for residents living only blocks outside of the Tourism District-many of who find themselves struggling to find employment.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists unemployment in the Atlantic City-Hammonton above twelve percent for the year 2012. That's above the State average (just over 10%) for the same year and well over the national average (over eight percent).
Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford (BLS) believes as a whole the city is on the upswing however, noting the major economic and employment boons the opening of the Revel Casino, International Festival, and Concert's at Bader Field have been.
Revel's impact on the employment landscape of Atlantic City can't be overlooked, from June 2011 to June of this year the city gained almost six and half thousand jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry according the BLS.
For a city that was built on gaming, it is not surprising over fifty five thousand of the cities's employed work in the Leisure and Hospitality Industry. However with gambling revenue in a steady decline, many of the cities working class residents struggle to find employment.
"It's really hard out here I'm a grandmother raising a grandchild, I raised all my children and its hard to get work. " notes one resident of Maryland Avenue.
She laments though the state has invested a lot of public money within the Tourism District, the residents just a few hundred feet away from the boardwalk haven't seen any of thought.
"Not for the residents, every back in Maryland is looking for employment and unemployment is terrible".
Mayor Langford acknowledges there are issues with unemployment, however he feels a lot of that comes down to personal responsibility on the part of the residents.
"It's not realistic to expect that you're going to have zero unemployment …There is a part of the population, who are not in the position to be gainfully employed."
One of the issues many residents had is the casinos may provide jobs, but many of the positions are temporary or season and pay wages under ten dollars an hour-a struggle for anyone trying to support themselves.
Drew, a resident living not far from Bacharach Blvd where the mayor's office is, struggles to maintain his life on track. He says with so many ways for a person to get in trouble, finding legitimate work is paramount.
"We need some more jobs, there's been a little bit of increase in the job opportunities but we could use a little bit more work all year round not just the summer time."
Langford says the nature of Atlantic City as a resort city means casino's and hospitality will always be the primary industry.
"You're not going to have heavy industry lets say. That's not compatible, so you try to have the best that you can with what you've got. "
He notes what can be done to help out of work residents is make sure that qualified people are putting themselves in a better position to be employed.
"At the same time, we need a better relationship with the employers who would give Atlantic City [residents], who are qualified, preferential status and give them the first shot at these jobs that become available. "
The Mayor does believe industries, such as warehousing, can be introduced into the city, and could offer an alternative industry.
"It's an industry that pays a decent wage, and certainly if you go again to the Atlantic City that I grew up in, we had the Main Paper company, we had most of your soft drink companies bottling companies here, All of those warehousing cottage industries provided decent livings for Atlantic city Residents and I think we can go back to that. "
New business is an issue residents feel they are left out of the loop on. While the CRDA has spent a lot effort to attract companies from around the state (and the world) to settle in Atlantic City, the ideas of local small businesses aren't given as much credence.
"For those who want to open businesses here in Atlantic City, they might have grown up here, lived here all their lives, have ideas," says a local resident. However the problem falls down to funding
"Depending what it is that you want to do, you will need the funds to do it so they need guidance."
Mayor Langford, however, retorts that Atlantic City is not any more difficult to start a business than anywhere else. Noting that it requires "a certain acumen".
"It's easy to say let's start some small businesses but starting a business is a function of supply and demand wherever you can find that demand, if you can provide that supply then you got a shot to open that business and be successful. But if you open your business in a place where there is no demand, you're bumping your head against a wall. "
However he contends his office is open to its constituents who want to open up shop in AC.
"You show me the person who wants to start a small business, we'll talk about whether it makes sense or not and I'll do all I can. "