State: LI job market picks up the pace in July

William Roman Jr., of Bay Shore, left, attends William Roman Jr., of Bay Shore, left, attends a job fair Wednesday at the Uniondale Marriott organized by the website jobEXPO.com. The New York Labor Department reported Thursday that the Long Island economy had 21,700 more jobs in July than in July a year ago. (Aug. 14, 2013) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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After slowing in recent months, the Long Island job market picked up the pace in July, the State Labor Department said Thursday.

The local economy had 21,700 more jobs last month than a year ago. That was up from the 19,400-job increase in June year over year. The Island now has 1.29 million jobs, compared with 1.27 million a year earlier.

The latest report still reflects the local job market's uneven recovery, though.

The professional and business-services sector, one of the Island's higher-wage sectors, led employment growth, with 8,100 more jobs. That cheered local economists, who have worried about the preponderance of lower-wage jobs that has characterized this recovery.

That sector now has 174,200 jobs, an all-time high, said James Brown, principal economist in the Labor Department's Manhattan office.

That sector's strength bodes well for the general job market, he said, because the category reflects business spending. In fact, the strongest growth was in the category's subsector that includes administrative and support services, jobs companies fill when they expect more business.

"When you're seeing strength there, it generally means that businesses are doing well, and that is a good sign for future hiring," Brown said.

He noted that temp agency placements also contributed to growth in the sector, as companies reluctant to hire permanent workers turned to temporary hires, even for highly skilled positions.

"You are getting more employment services placing professionals now as contrasted with clerical [workers of the past]," he said.

Some longtime job seekers are seeing more signs of life in the job market. West Hempstead resident Chris Fidis, 54, found a job as a car salesman last month at a Kia dealership in East Meadow after losing a telecommunications project-management position in May 2012. He said the key was to think of how his skills apply to the auto industry.

"I feel comfortable in both worlds because they both involve technologies that are similar to each other and talking to people of all kinds," he said.

Legal services, which is also in the professional and business-services sector, added 600 jobs, noteworthy because the Island's gain may be New York City's loss, noted Gregory DeFreitas, an economist and professor who heads Hofstra University's labor studies program. He said he has heard anecdotally that some city-based law firms are hiring for their Long Island offices while laying off employees in the city.

Other key sectors continued to post losses.

The government sector had 3,500 fewer jobs, the biggest decline of any sector. And public school layoffs of teachers and other personnel continued to drive those losses last month.

"That clearly has been a leading drag on the recovery," Defreitas said.

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