Long Island's jobless rate fell in July to 5.3 percent, 1 percentage point lower than a year earlier, the New York State Labor Department said Tuesday.
The number of out-of-work Long Islanders dropped year over year by 15,800, to 80,800, the agency reported. The number of local residents who held jobs barely edged up: an increase of 500, to 1,435,200.
The Labor Department focuses on year-over-year comparisons because the data aren't adjusted for seasonal variations in employment.
By comparison, New York State's jobless rate was 6.8 percent, and the national rate was 6.5 percent. These state and national rates also aren't seasonally adjusted.
Long Island's unemployment rate was the lowest for any July since 2008, when 5.1 percent of Long Islanders were out of work, said Shital Patel, a labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office.
The decline in the number of unemployed Long Islanders in July could be due, in part, to job seekers' getting discouraged and giving up, Patel said. But it's likely that many aged out of the workforce, returned to school or decided to stay home with children, she said.
"Long Island's population is older than the nation's as whole, so we could be seeing people just deciding to retire," Patel said.
This year as a whole, he said, "we've seen solid growth in employment on Long Island in a variety of sectors," including higher-paying industries such as construction, professional and business services and health services.
To be sure, some of the new jobs offer low wages, said Irwin Kellner, Port Washington-based chief economist for MarketWatch.com.
Even so, he said, "a job is a job, and eventually you'll see it trickle up into better-paying jobs."
In Nassau County the jobless rate declined by 0.9 percentage points annually, to 5.1 percent. The improvement in job seekers' fortunes was slightly greater in Suffolk County, where the unemployment rate dropped by 1.1 percentage points year over year, to 5.5 percent.
Southampton Town had the lowest jobless rate in Suffolk County, at 4.4 percent, while Lindenhurst had the county's highest, at 6.4 percent.
Rockville Centre had Nassau's lowest unemployment rate, at 4.4 percent. Nassau's highest rate was 6.6 percent, in Hempstead Village.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story online misstated the locations of two municipalities with high unemployment rates.