NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — More than 700 Department of Education employees were given pink slips two weeks ago in an effort to close a huge budget gap and when the dismissal bell rings today, those hundreds of New York City teacher aids and support staff will officially be out of a job.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports

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This is the largest number of layoffs at one time in New York City since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office nearly 10 years ago.

Union members packed the steps of City Hall protesting the layoffs, chanting “Get Some Guts, Stop The Cuts!”

Congresswoman Nidia Velazquez said she wants answers from City Hall. “Why is it that we target low-income, under served communities,” she said. “Shame on them.”

District 35 New York City councilwoman Letitia James blames the mayor for the layoffs. “I am not going to turn back on these individuals who are they working class of this city and this country,” she said.

“My heart goes out to these workers but I also have a responsibility to make sure we have a balanced budget at the DOE,” City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. “We knew that we had to make cuts and unfortunately, these approximately 700 workers are the result of that.”

Among those laid off workers is Cristonia Johnson, a 13-year veteran of the DOE and an outreach specialist. “To work for the city for a whole of 20 years and to be put out on the street like this, I am extremely angry,” she said.

DOE officials say the cuts will save $35 million. But teacher unions are protesting the layoffs, saying they unfairly affect minorities and the city’s poorest schools.

“700 plus members will no longer be employed,” said Santos Crespo of DC 37 Local 372. “The unemployment rolls will now have an addition.”

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As hundreds of local teachers lose their jobs, nationwide, the unemployment rate isn’t budging.

While the economy added more than 100,000 new jobs in September, new figures out today show the unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent.

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The Labor Department also revised the previous two months to show that companies hired at a better pace than first estimated.

Nearly half of the gains last month occurred because 45,000 striking Verizon workers returned to their jobs.

Employers have added an average of only 72,000 jobs in the past five months. The economy must create twice as many just to keep up with population growth.

Still, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Congress earlier this week that the economic recovery was “close to faltering,” with slow job growth dragging down consumer confidence.

Bernanke, speaking in unusually blunt terms, said he could not blame Americans for being frustrated at the financial industry “for getting us into this mess” and at Washington for not coming up with a strong response.

The faltering economy has led many employers to reduce hiring. In the first half of this year, the economy grew at the slowest pace since the recession ended in June 2009.

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