Monsey Memories: When Rockland Began to Shift from Hamlet to Metropolis, and Its Demographics Changed Along With It

Monsey Memories: When Rockland Began to Shift from Hamlet to Metropolis, and Its Demographics Changed Along With It

Yitzy Fried

We tend to think that the changes coming over Rockland County today are earth-shattering and have never been seen before, that the area is only now being transformed from a farmland hamlet to an overcrowded metropolis. But the following newspaper report from the 1970’s tells us that steady change and transformation have been taking place in this area—which traces its roots to the 1600’s— at least since the 1960’s.

Thus wrote the Journal News in 1978: “Blue Collar Work Declines Since ’60. During the past ten years, as Rockland County was being transformed from a placid semi-rural community into a burgeoning, urbanized community, significant transformation was occurring in the employment sector.

Statistics from the 1960 U.S. Census indicate that white-collar workers (represented by such professions as engineers, doctors, teachers, salesmen and bookkeepers) amounted to 22,456 persons or 48 percent of the total employed. In 1970, the white-collar group amounted to 50,375 or 66 percent of the total.

“On the other hand, blue-collar employment (represented by such professions as machinists, mechanics, and equipment operators), which amounted to 15,676 or 33 percent of total employment in 1960, reached 22,373 or 26 percent of the total in 1970. Proportionately, therefore, blue-collar employment declined.

“A similar trend can be seen in statistics on employment collected by the New York State Department of Labor.

“In line with recent employment statistics, labor surpluses were noticeable recently in manufacturing, particularly where older plants and factories were involved. In 1972, for example, there were three plant closing in Rockland, and some 500 persons laid off.

“Although there were some smaller plant openings during the same year that produced a few hundred new jobs, the total number of new jobs did not match the number of jobs that were lost, and most of them were not in the same field. Many of those laid off were unskilled or older workers, and they were not absorbed into the employment provided by the new plant openings.

“It is also noteworthy that the largest proportion of those receiving unemployment compensation had been in the manufacturing and contract construction fields.”

The article points to a slowdown in the opening of new manufacturing in Rockland, which would bring blue-collar jobs to the area. The demographics have only continued to change drastically from there, with the influx of frum Yidden who tend to engage in varied professions—changes that would require whole new demographic studies as Rockland continues to evolve on a constant basis. 

BDE: Reb Chaim Yosef Linder, z”l
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