Long Island's unemployment rate continued a string of big year-over-year declines in July, falling to 6.2 percent from 7.8 percent in July 2012, the state Labor Department reported Tuesday.
The year-over-year drop was the fourth in a row to exceed 1 percentage point. The Island's jobless rate has been falling since January, when it stood at 7.9 percent, but the magnitude has grown recently.
While down from last year, the local rate remains above pre-recession levels. It was 4.1 percent in July 2007, a few months before the national recession began.
"There has been definite improvement in the last 12 to 18 months; really significant," said James Brown, principal economist at the Labor Department. "But we still have a ways to go before I would say the job market has fully recovered."
The department uses year-over-year comparisons because the data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.
Brown said July's unemployment rate usually is higher than June's because of layoffs of temporary workers at public schools and universities at the end of the academic year.
Long Island's rate climbed a tenth of 1 percentage point last month from June's 6.1 percent.
Kathleen Bell lost her part-time job as an educational assistant at a local public school in late June. She'd been an employee for more than a year and was devastated by the pink slip, which she was told was for "economic reasons."
But Bell, 51, said she has stayed in contact with school district officials, letting them know she wanted to return. The Hicksville resident also is pursuing her associate degree in arts and education at Nassau Community College.
"I didn't want them to forget about me," Bell said, referring to district officials. "I really loved my job."
Her persistence and prayers paid off Tuesday when a district official told Bell she was "next on the list" to be hired for the same position.
The jobs picture in Nassau and Suffolk counties in July continued to be better than in other parts of the state. New York City's unemployment rate was 8.7 percent, while the statewide rate was 7.6 percent.
The national rate was 7.7 percent in July before seasonal adjustment.
Nonfarm jobs on the Island totaled 1.29 million last month, an increase of 21,700 from a year earlier.
Craig Alexander, chief economist for TD Bank, said, "The unemployment rate on Long Island has come down significantly. . . . Over the past year, the economy is doing better."