Long Island's unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent last month from 7.2 percent a year ago, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.

The decline came during a month in which the number of jobs on Long Island shrank. So the falling unemployment rate seems to be attributable largely to people finding jobs off the Island, baby boomers retiring from the workforce, and discouraged workers no longer seeking employment, experts said. The unemployment rate measures only unemployed people seeking jobs.

The department reported last week that Long Island had 8,600 fewer jobs in November than a year earlier -- a figure that suggests a worsening job picture.

"In our case," said Michael Crowell, the department's principal economist for Long Island, "we have a labor force that is declining in size."

Economist Pearl Kamer of the Long Island Association, a business group, agreed. "This is why falling unemployment rates do not necessarily tell us anything about the health of the labor market," she said.

Year-to-year comparisons are used for the local unemployment figures, instead of month-to-month, because the data are not adjusted for seasonal variation.

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The Island's unemployment rate has been below year-ago levels each month since July, Crowell said. Last month's rate was the lowest for a November since 2008.

There were 97,200 Long Islanders unemployed and actively seeking work last month, the department said, compared with 106,100 a year earlier. Nassau and Suffolk had 1,241,800 jobs last month.

Suffolk's unemployment rate was higher than Nassau's -- 7 percent, compared with 6.4 percent. Once again, Hempstead Village had the highest unemployment rate of any Long Island town, city or village -- 8.7 percent.

Job seekers looking elsewhere in New York will find a higher jobless rate in New York City -- 9.1 percent, the labor department said. But New York City had 23,500 more jobs last month than a year earlier, Crowell noted.

Collectively, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester's rates were a bit lower than Long Island's -- 6.3 percent, the department said. They had more jobs in November than a year earlier.

The statewide unemployment rate also fell to 7.9 percent from 8.2 percent, the department said. More than 34,400 new jobs were added statewide in November.

The national unemployment rate for November, without seasonal adjustment, was 8.2 percent.

November was the seventh straight month in which the total number of jobs fell on the Island from a year earlier. Gains in certain private sector jobs again were outweighed by losses in other categories such as public jobs, especially in school districts. Gains came in health care, social assistance, retailing and certain other categories, the labor department said.

The trends were similar in October, when the rate was 6.6 percent, a drop from 7 percent a year earlier, Crowell said.

 

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LI'S JOBLESS STATS

NOV. 2010

LI unemployment: 7.2 percent

Number of jobs on LI: 1,250,400

NOV. 2011

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LI unemployment: 6.7 percent

Number of jobs on LI: 1,241,800

Source: New York State Labor Department