Island's unemployment hits 7.7 percent in June

Monique Eyette Bell, 50, of Glen Cove, who

Monique Eyette Bell, 50, of Glen Cove, who is out of work, visited the state career center in Hicksville Tuesday. (July 24, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

Long Island's unemployment rate jumped to 7.7 percent in June, from 7 percent a year ago, the state Labor Department said Tuesday. It was the highest rate for that month in three years.

The increase was not surprising, given the recent weak employment growth here. Last week, the department reported that the Island had 6,300 more jobs in June than the year before, one of the weakest showings of the year.

"It does sort of dovetail with the weaker job growth that we have seen in the past three months," said Shital Patel, a labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office.

She and another local economist also noted that the rate rose because discouraged workers -- those who had given up looking for a job and thus weren't counted as unemployed -- resumed their job search.

"People are so desperate for a job that even if you're generating 100 or 200 jobs, they are going to jump in," said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association.

The local job market has been even weaker than first thought. The recent employment data showed that May had just 7,000 more jobs than the year before, a significant drop from the 9,100 jobs initially reported. In the first three months of the year the local job market had an average 19,100 more jobs than a year ago.

"This is the first time that we have had such a lackluster recovery," Kamer said. "This recession wounded us in some of our key industries."

She said those industries include retail, which had 300 fewer jobs in June than the year before, a reflection of lower consumer spending.

The department uses year-to-year comparisons because local numbers aren't seasonally adjusted to account for unusual monthly swings.

Long Island had 115,600 unemployed residents in June, up 11,100 from a year ago.

The current jobless rate is the highest rate for June since 7.4 percent in 2009. The state's unemployment rate also jumped -- to 9.1 percent from 8.1 percent the year before. That rate isn't seasonably adjusted. The federal rate, at 8.4 percent, was down from 9.3 percent a year earlier.

The weak job market has proved tough for job seekers. Cleve Phillips, 47, of Glen Cove, has been unemployed for about a year. Phillips, who used to work in building maintenance, said his search has been hard because he doesn't have a formal electrician or plumber's certification. "I've applied numerous places, but I haven't even had one interview," he said.

Home-health aide Monique Eyette Bell, 50, of Glen Cove, hasn't worked since June, when her patient died. It marks the first time she's joined the unemployment ranks. "I've been working all my life. I don't want to be on unemployment," she said.

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