Spike in professional sector fuels LI jobs gain in May

The Island had 25,300 more jobs in May,

The Island had 25,300 more jobs in May, compared with May of last year. That gain was down slightly from April, when employment grew at a rate of 27,200 jobs year over year. This job seeker was filling out applications at a career fair at the Melville Marriott. (Oct. 17, 2012) (Credit: Heather Walsh)

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Long Island's recent strong job growth lost a bit of steam last month, state data released Thursday show.

The Island had 25,300 more jobs in May, compared with May of last year, the state Labor Department said. That gain was down slightly from April, when employment grew at a rate of 27,200 jobs year over year. The April increase was the strongest gain in a year.

A spike last month in professional and business-services jobs, some of the higher-paid ones on Long Island, was welcome news to economists who have long worried about the rise of lower-wage jobs here.

Still troubling, though, is the continued loss of government jobs, particularly at the local level.

The professional and business-services sector showed 9,900 more jobs last month, compared with a year ago, the largest gain for any job sector and the biggest increase since 2000, said James Brown, the department's principal economist in Manhattan. And that big jump bodes well for the broader economy, because it reflects growing business profits and expansions, he said.

"The strength in that sector is always a sign that the economy is performing well," Brown said.

Elmont resident Nadia Davis landed a marketing-communications specialist job in April at SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals in Hauppauge. She had been unemployed since December 2011, when her project management job in Manhattan was outsourced to India.

The job search was frustrating because many employers considered her overqualified, said Davis, who is in her 30s and has a bachelor's in business administration. She said the trick was to keep herself motivated.

"If you are sitting there feeling sorry for yourself saying you will never find a job, you never will," she said.

Demand for temporary employees boosted professional and business-services job growth last month. At the staffing company Adecco, demand is up for college-educated temps with experience in niche areas, like budget analysts, said Lori Farley-Toth, a Melville-based vice president of sales in the company's mid-Atlantic division.

"Everybody is really trying to make the most of every penny, nickel and dime out there," she said. "So business analysts are really important."

The government sector showed the biggest decline -- 3,200 fewer jobs, compared with a year earlier. The continued cuts, which help cash-strapped public employers save money, end up hurting the overall economy, said economist Gregory DeFreitas, who heads Hofstra University's labor studies program.

"Those are people with families," he said. "They are consumers. When they lose wages, when they get furloughed, that hurts stores and businesses."

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