Long Island job growth remains anemic in April

Nancy Leonard, senior operations administrator at Empire National Nancy Leonard, senior operations administrator at Empire National Bank, on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Long Island's job market remained weak in April, with just 10,500 more jobs than in April 2013, state Labor Department figures released Thursday show.

That followed March's year-over-year increase of 10,600 jobs, the lowest in a year.

"The numbers are still going in the right direction, but there are signs of a slowdown in the pace of overall job growth," said economist Gregory DeFreitas, who heads Hofstra University's labor studies program.

Lower-wage jobs continued to lead employment growth. The trade, transportation and utilities sector, which includes retail, had the biggest gain -- 7,000 more jobs year over year. That sector has led job growth every month since January, largely because of retail.

DeFreitas noted that besides offering lower-paying jobs, retail may see future growth slow considerably because of the Island's aging and slow-growing population.

"It's not a job engine we want to rely on," he said. "But I think we are potentially running out of strong sources of new growth."

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The Island had 1.28 million jobs in April, up from 1.27 million a year earlier.

The government sector shed the most jobs, down 3,500, mostly because of local public-school layoffs.

Among higher-paying sectors, one bright spot was manufacturing, which has expanded every month this year, after largely losing jobs during the recession and its aftermath. The sector had 500 more jobs in April compared with a year ago.

Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the department's Hicksville office, said the growth is coming from pharmaceutical and vitamin manufacturers here. "That's really been growing," she said.

And even in sectors that are losing jobs, such as the high-paying financial activities sector, some companies are hiring. Islandia-based Empire National Bank has hired six people in the last year, including four at its first branch in Nassau County, said Douglas Manditch, chairman and CEO of the bank, which has 64 employees and four branches. He noted, however, that the economy still "isn't perking" along.

"Confidence has picked up a bit but not where you want it to be for five years after a recession," he said.

In December, Empire hired Nancy Leonard as senior operations administrator in Islandia. The Jamesport resident previously worked in Mattituck for 27 years, first for North Fork Bancorp. and then for Capital One Financial Corp., which bought North Fork in 2006. But the Mattituck operations shifted to Virginia, and she didn't want to relocate.

Leonard, 48, knew she would have to look beyond the East End for a banking job with her skill set. "I knew that I was going to have to head west eventually," she said.

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