Long Island's unemployment rate last month fell to 4.9 percent from 6.2 percent in June 2013, the New York State Labor Department said Tuesday. It was the lowest for that month since 2008, but it was unchanged from May.
The year-over-year decline reflects stronger employment growth in June, when the economy had 15,100 more jobs than in June 2013, the department said last week. Year-over-year job gains in April and May had dropped below 13,000.
"The general trend has been that we have seen an improvement" in the jobless rate, said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the department's Hicksville office. "That's good news."
Still, it appeared other factors besides job growth were driving down the rate. For example, the drop in the number of unemployed far outpaced the gain in the number of employed residents. The number of jobless Long Islanders fell last month by 21,200 to 73,700, the lowest since 2008. But the number of employed inched up by 900 to 1.43 million, still below pre-recession levels.
Other factors that may have cut the jobless rate include a rising number of retirees and increasing numbers of jobless Long Islanders who stopped looking for work, Patel said. Neither group is considered unemployed.
Martin Melkonian, associate professor of economics at Hofstra University, said both the Island and the nation need stronger wage growth to spur consumer demand and hiring. Until then, he said, "we are not really going to have a prosperous economy. Long Island will be in the doldrums."
Stony Brook resident Melissa O'Connor is hoping to land full-time work after losing a 12-year job in November 2012. The small Melville ad and marketing firm where she was a senior account executive closed after it lost a major client. Since then, O'Connor has had a part-time job, has done some freelancing and had two full-time sales jobs briefly but left each after concluding "I am just not a sales personality."
She says employers make unfair assumptions about older, experienced workers. "Don't dismiss somebody or assume that they are overqualified or they want X amount," she said. "Take the time to speak to them, to see if they're a good fit."
The labor department uses year-over-year comparisons because the local data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.
On the Island, Southampton Town had the lowest jobless rate at 4.1 percent. Hempstead Village's 6.4 percent was the highest.