Long Island's unemployment rate rose to 7.1 percent in December from 6.8 percent a year ago, as the difficult recovery from superstorm Sandy took a toll on jobs, state Labor Department data released Tuesday show.

Unemployment rates in some areas spiked in December in the aftermath of the storm, which struck on Oct. 29. In hard-hit Long Beach, the jobless rate surged to 10.9 percent in December, from 6.9 percent a year earlier. The city now has Long Island's highest unemployment rate, the only one in double digits.

The number of unemployed people there jumped to 2,100, or by 62 percent, from last year's 1,300 because the heavily damaged hospital and so many businesses closed.

"And that's why it's crucial that support and resources and assistance pour into Long Beach now so that we can get our businesses open and put people back to work and set up for our summer season," said Long Beach city manager Jack Schnirman Tuesday.

December capped off a year that offered Long Island no respite from recession-like unemployment rates of more than 7 percent. The unemployment rate rose for most of last year on the Island.

Job growth last year was tepid; the Island had a mere 2,700 more jobs in December than a year earlier, the Labor Department said, a gain of 0.2 percent.

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Such weak job growth is "not going to make a dent in the unemployment rate," said Jason Bram, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Long Island's jobless rate compares with 8.2 percent for the state and 7.6 for the nation in December. These statistics are not adjusted for seasonal factors; counting seasonal adjustments, the U.S. unemployment rate is 7.8 percent.

The number of unemployed workers on the Island rose to 104,900 in December, up 5,500 from a year before. The number of people with jobs also rose -- to 1.367 million from 1.354 million, a rise of about 12,700. More people who had given up looking for work have resumed their job search and are now counted as unemployed, said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the Labor Department's Hicksville office.

Job seekers know firsthand how challenging Long Island's job market has been. When Babylon resident Rachel Fasciani lost her job as public relations director at a Bronx health center in May, she said she thought her experience, strong resume and great references would add up to a short job search.

"But it hasn't made a difference," said Fasciani, 37. "I don't even get calls."