Long Island's unemployment rate has posted another big year-over-year decline, dropping to 6.2 percent in August from 7.5 percent the year before, state Labor Department data released Tuesday show.
The Island's year-over-year jobless rate has been dropping since February, with the declines picking up significantly in the past four months. The declining rate came amid stronger job growth. Last week the department said the Island had 27,100 more jobs in August than the year before, the biggest increase since April.
Despite its declines, the jobless rate reflects an employment market still trying to shake off the lingering effects of the last recession. In August 2007, four months before the recession began, the Island's unemployment rate was 3.9 percent.
"We're well below where we were a year ago, but we're still well above where we were in 2007," said Michael Crowell, senior economist in the department's Hicksville office.
And the quality of jobs the local economy is generating remains a concern. Martin Melkonian, associate professor of economics at Hofstra University, noted that the public sector, with its "middle-class-type jobs," continues to shrink, while lower-wage sectors such as retail and leisure and hospitality have had some of the strongest job growth.
"The quality of jobs has really dropped dramatically over the past three to four years," he said.
Long Island had 93,600 unemployed workers in August, compared with 112,000 a year ago. In August 2007 the unemployed numbered 58,300. The jobless data don't include discouraged workers, or those unemployed people who have given up looking for a job because they don't believe they can find one.
The number of employed rose to 1.426 million, from 1.387 million a year earlier. Six years ago the Island had 1.441 million employed workers.
The department uses year-over-year data because the numbers aren't seasonally adjusted to reflect normal monthly fluctuations.
Medford resident Michael Lawless, 59, knows how challenging the job market remains. He has been unemployed since August 2012, when he lost his sales job at a local home-improvement store after six years. He was visiting the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center in Hauppauge Tuesday, where he went to look for posted jobs and wound up filling out an application for a forklift sales position with Express Employment Professionals, whose Deer Park office was recruiting at the center.
He is hopeful, but he wonders if his age is working against him. Despite sending out more than 100 resumes, he hasn't gotten a response in months, he said.
"Why would they want to hire me," he said, "if they can hire someone fresh and pay less?"