Long Island's unemployment rate dropped sharply in June to 6.1 percent, from 7.5 percent in June 2012, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.
The rate has been trending down since January, when it stood at 7.9 percent. Despite the declines, it remains significantly above the 3.9 percent it stood at in June 2006, the year before the recession began. A rate below 4 percent is considered full employment.
Michael Crowell, senior economist in the department's Hicksville office, said he wasn't surprised by the latest steep decline because of the relatively strong job growth of recent months.
"Clearly we are sort of out of the worst part of the recession," he said. But he added that while the economy is in recovery, "it's still not a full-fledged one."
Long Island's unemployment rate compares with 7.6 percent for New York State and 8.7 percent for New York City.
The number of employed Long Islanders rose to 1.42 million in June, the most for that month since 2008. That's up from 1.4 million a year earlier. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed residents dropped to 92,200, the lowest since 2008 and down from 112,800 a year earlier.
The department uses year-over-year comparisons because the data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.
Despite the improvements, some economists caution that the unemployment report doesn't capture two big underlying characteristics of the employment market: The report doesn't include discouraged workers, those who have stopped hunting for a job because they don't believe they can find one. And it doesn't speak to the predominance of lower-wage jobs, which have characterized the recovery.
"It doesn't reflect people who have given up looking for work, and it doesn't reflect the kind of jobs that people are getting," said Irwin Kellner, the Port Washington-based chief economist for MarketWatch.com, a financial news website.
Williston Park resident Katthya Holsgrove, 43, has been struggling to find full-time employment since December 2011, when she lost her job of four years reconciling foreign-currency trades and detecting money laundering for a bank in Manhattan. Six months later she obtained a yearlong temporary job doing similar work, but that ended last month. On Tuesday, she visited the One-Stop Career Center in Hicksville for help with an unemployment benefits problem.
She said it was hard to deal with the loss of a six-figure income, especially since contract work generally pays half that. She used to switch jobs every three years and increase her salary an average $20,000 each time. But no more.
"You take what you can get," she said. Employers are "going for cheap right now. They know a lot of people are desperate."