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A&P bankruptcy pushes LI job growth lower, state data show

The loss of grocery stores on Long Island

The loss of grocery stores on Long Island contributed to a lower jobs growth rate in December, New York State Labor Department data shows. This Pathmark at 1764 Grand Ave. in Baldwin closed last year. The photo is from Nov. 11, 2015. Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

Long Island’s job market growth rounded out 2015 at a slower pace primarily because of supermarket layoffs in the wake of A&P’s bankruptcy, state Labor Department data released Thursday show.

The Island had 19,900 more jobs in December, compared with a year earlier. That compares with November’s year-over-year growth rate of 21,200 jobs. Both months contrast sharply with October’s 24,600-job growth rate.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector posted the biggest loss, down 2,900 jobs, reflecting the layoffs in its grocery store subsector. It was the trade sector’s first year-over-year decline in three years, said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.

“Some of that weakness was due to the closure of A&P stores,” Patel said.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., which filed for bankruptcy in July, owned 51 Pathmark and Walbaum’s supermarkets on Long Island, 34 of which were sold, mostly to other supermarket chains. The rest were closed by November.

While the new operators hired more than 1,500 employees from those stores, union officials have estimated that more than 2,000 jobs were eliminated on the Island.

The Labor Department data show the grocery sector lost 2,300 jobs year over year.

The trade category also weakened on dramatically lower holiday hiring. Between November and December retailers added a record-low 1,000 jobs, compared with the typical 4,600, Patel said.

The weak hiring was surprising because sales tax receipts for both Nassau and Suffolk counties rose by more than 5 percent in December, said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group.

“Despite the weakness in the retail sector, it looks like consumer spending overall in both counties was solid,” he said.

But Rizzo noted that sales-tax receipts are a broad category that also includes such non-retail items as hotel-room taxes.

The private-education and health-services sector led gains with 12,500 more jobs, on the strength of increased health care employment.

The Variety Child Learning Center, which has locations in Syosset and Levittown, hired four new assistant teachers in the past month because of growing enrollment, said chief executive Janice Friedman. The center provides services to children with and without disabilities, including early intervention and preschool.

One of the new assistant teachers is Melissa Lisena, 34, who had previously worked for Variety. She jumped back into the job market after staying home with her four young children.

“I was a little nervous about finding a job again,” the Farmingdale resident said. “It worked out.”

Long Island’s private sector last month grew by 21,600 jobs, or 1.9 percent, from the year before. That lagged the state’s 2.1 percent increase and the nation’s 2.2 percent in the same year-over-year period.

A 1,700-job decline in the government sector here cut overall employment growth.

All told, the Island had 1.33 million jobs in December, up from 1.31 million the year before.

The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren’t adjusted to reflect seasonal fluctuations.

The Labor Department will release the Island’s December unemployment rate on Tuesday. In November the rate fell to 4.1 percent, from 4.6 percent the year before.

With Aisha Al-Muslim

Winners and Losers

LI sectors that added or lost the most jobs in December, compared with December 2014.

Winners

Private-education and health services, up 12,500

Construction, up 5,900

Losers

Trade, transportation and utilities down 2,900

Government , down 1,700

Source: state Labor Department

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