The Long Island economy had only 10,600 more jobs in March than it had a year earlier, providing fresh evidence of a slowing job market here, state data released Thursday show.
It was the smallest monthly employment increase in the past 12 months. In January, the fastest-growing month so far in 2014, employment was expanding at an annual rate of 17,500 jobs.
The March numbers show moderating growth partly because they compare with year-ago data boosted by post-superstorm Sandy rebuilding, said Irwin Kellner, chief economist for MarketWatch.com, a financial news website. But some employers' reluctance to hire is also slowing growth, he said.
"It seems that employers have the upper hand, and they are hiring only as a last resort," Kellner said.
Still, the Island had 1.26 million jobs in March, the highest for the month in more than 20 years, state Labor Department data show.
But lower-wage jobs again dominated employment growth, a familiar theme of this recovery. The trade, transportation and utilities sector added the most jobs last month, 7,700 year over year, primarily because of retail hiring.
The government sector, one of the Island's highest paying, lost the most jobs -- 3,500 -- primarily because of public school layoffs. Those cuts helped drop the sector's employment to 196,000 jobs, the lowest for March since 2001.
"Some of it has to do with demographics because of the closure of schools, probably due to low enrollment," said Shital Patel, a state labor market analyst in Hicksville.
The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.
The Island's highest-paid sector, financial activities, lost 900 jobs. The finance and insurance component of the sector had 54,300 jobs in March, the lowest since 2011.
The loss surprised Patel, who expected to see an increase because local small banks and credit unions have been expanding.
"We're just not seeing the numbers," she said.
But some people snagged jobs in the sector.
Adam Maggs, 24, joined the Melville-based financial advisory firm Kuttin-Metis Wealth Management in early March as a financial planner assistant. The Georgia native said he was glad to be able to look for work in a sector that is hiring.
"The opportunities exist," he said. "You just have to be willing to work hard for them."
Aaron Schenkman, a Kuttin partner, said the firm has hired six people in the past six months because it believes large numbers of retiring baby boomers need financial advice.
"So a lot of people are seeking advice for that event," he said.
The current report surveys employers in order to tally the number of jobs on the Island.
The Labor Department's separate report on the local unemployment rate, by contrast, counts the number of residents in the labor force.The department will release the March unemployment report on Tuesday. In February, the jobless rate dropped to 6.2 percent, from 7.3 percent the year before.