Long Island's March unemployment rate dropped to 5.7 percent, from 6.6 percent a year earlier, the state Labor Department reported Tuesday.
Though the rate dropped below 6 percent, the year-over-year 0.9 percentage-point decline was the smallest decrease in a year. The slower decline reflected weaker job growth for the month. Last week the Labor Department said the Island had 10,600 more jobs in March than in March 2013, the slowest growth in a year.
Local economists said the report was largely positive.
John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, said the falling jobless rate indicated continued strength in the employment market, but that the number remains significantly above 4 percent, which economists consider full employment.
"It's relatively good," he said. But "there is more to be done."
Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the state Labor Department's Hicksville office, noted that while job growth has slowed the number of employed residents continues to increase significantly. The number of employed residents in March rose by 14,000 from a year earlier, to a total of 1.39 million, the highest since 2008.
"Obviously, we would love to see huge gains in jobs," she said. But "we're still seeing healthy levels of job growth."
The number of unemployed residents declined by 13,300, to 83,200, the lowest for the month since 2008.
The department uses year-over-year comparisons because the data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.
Amityville resident Camilla Corder, who lost her job as a bank assistant vice president more than a year ago, still struggles to find a job.
"Honestly, I thought I would have a job within two to three months, said Corder, who has a master's of business administration from New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury and worked in her former employer's compliance and risk-assessment operations.
Corder, 47, believes her age is a factor because many employers in her field prefer to hire recent college graduates.
"It works against me because they are looking to hire individuals at a lower salary," she said.
Hempstead Village had the highest jobless rate -- 8.3 percent. Rockville Centre's 4.4 percent was the lowest and the closest to full employment.
Long Island's jobless rate was the third-lowest among metro areas around the state. Ithaca, the home of Cornell University, had the lowest at 4.4 percent.