LI government layoffs slow Oct. job growth

Lynne OLeary, vice president of marketing at Teachers Lynne OLeary, vice president of marketing at Teachers Federal Credit Union in Hauppauge, secured that financial activities-sector job in October just days after leaving a similar position in Centereach. (Nov. 15, 2012) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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Continuing layoffs in local government slowed Long Island's job growth in October. The Island had just 6,500 more jobs last month, or a 0.5 percent uptick, than it did a year earlier, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

The private sector had a relatively strong gain of 11,200 jobs, but a 4,700 decline in government employment cut overall job growth to 6,500 jobs. Local government, which includes villages, towns and counties, accounted for most of the government cuts -- 4,400 jobs.

Long Island lagged both the state and the nation in the percentage of job growth in October, which rose by 1.5 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

"It's still a lackluster recovery where we are struggling to gain jobs," said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group.

The latest data don't include days affected by superstorm Sandy. Sample data from employers are based on the pay period that includes the 12th day of the month. The devastating storm hit Long Island Oct. 29.

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One local economist said the Island's job market will likely weaken more, even if the nation avoids the fiscal cliff, that is, the combination of expiring tax cuts and draconian federal budget cuts that will take effect Jan. 1 unless Congress and the president reach an agreement preventing them. Any compromise is certain to produce some spending cuts and tax increases, said Irwin Kellner, chief economist for MarketWatch.com, a financial-information website.

"That's the last thing this economy needs," said Kellner, who's based in Port Washington. "And as the country goes, so goes Long Island."

The private-education and health-services sector showed the biggest year-over-year gain -- 4,700 jobs. The construction sector had the biggest decline -- down 5,600 jobs, a reflection of the local housing market's continuing woes.

"We will see a turnaround only when the housing market comes back," said Shital Patel, a labor market analyst in the Labor Department's Hicksville office.

Manufacturing, which had 1,000 fewer jobs in October, now has 72,100 jobs, nearly half of the sector's total in 1990, Patel said. Overall, Long Island has 1.261 million jobs, compared with 1.255 million a year ago.

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The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local monthly data aren't adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations.

One of the Island's fastest-growing categories is the financial-activities sector, which had 4,400 more jobs in October than a year earlier. While that is good news because the sector is traditionally the highest-paying, it is still down 7,300 jobs from its pre-recession high, Patel said.

Lynne O'Leary recently found a job in that sector. O'Leary, 43, began work as vice president of marketing at Hauppauge-based Teachers Federal Credit Union on Oct. 15. The East Northport resident started that job just days after leaving a similar job at Community Development Corp. of Long Island in Centereach.

She said the chief way she makes herself stand out in the job market is to acquire new skills, like learning to use social media to get results for her employer. "I've kept on the cutting edge of new strategies," she said. "I try not to get too comfortable in a skill set."

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