Days after he joked about massive layoffs of city workers, Mayor Bloomberg singled out New York’s “dedicated employees” as a great source of its strength.

“I’ve inherited a city which is one of [the] safest big cities in the world,” Bloomberg said in a CNN interview yesterday. “I’ve inherited a city with 8 million of the greatest people and 250,000 dedicated employees.”

He made the reference to firing “thousands of people” during the debut of his Friday radio show on WABC. He later asked reporters to “lighten up” and said he was joking.

Bloomberg spent Super Bowl Sunday traveling the city to speak with Jewish groups, firefighters and business leaders at the World Economic Forum.

During one stop, he made some pointed remarks about the need for city school kids to read and speak English.

“This is an English-speaking country, like it or not,” Bloomberg said to applause at the Riverdale Jewish Community Council breakfast. “And you will get the biggest applause for that among communities where children don’t speak English.”

Bloomberg, who had a bilingual campaign Web site and even made a TV commercial in Spanish, long has argued for reforming the Board of Education’s bilingual program.

“The mayor continues to believe that our children can’t fully participate in society if they’re not able to speak and write the English language,” said Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler.

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