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Census shows LI lost 1,299 businesses

Long Island lost 1,299 businesses between 2008 and 2009, according to Census data released Thursday, the latest indication of the damage done to the local economy during the recent recession.

The Island had 94,660 businesses in 2009, down 1.3 percent from 95,959 in 2008. And annual payroll declined 1.8 percent, to $49.6 billion.

"That clearly was the recession," said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association. "Long Island has a small-business economy. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to a credit crunch in a financial crisis, and that's what this recession was all about."

One local economist believes the Census numbers are conservative.

"The number is much lower than what we estimated," said Nesconset-based economist Thomas Conoscenti of Thomas Conoscenti & Associates, who estimates a decline of 1,800 businesses.

The number of employees declined by 47,199 in the same period, in line with local numbers previously reported by the state Labor Department

The last time the Island had net business growth was between 2006 and 2007, when the economy added 573 establishments.

The national recession officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 and was considered the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Though Long Island's economy remains sluggish, it has fared better than the nation's. And the latest business losses reflect that as well. The nation lost 168,000 businesses between 2008 and 2009, a 2.2 percent drop. New York State, on the other hand, fared better than both the nation and Long Island, with a decline of less than 1 percent.

The Island also has a current unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, compared with the nation's 9.1 percent.

In the latest report, the construction industry lost the most businesses: 606. Health care and social assistance added the most establishments: 94. The health care category was the only one to grow consistently throughout the nearly 18-month-long downturn.

The retail industry had the most establishments, 12,827, followed by the professional, scientific and technical-services category, which has 12,446 businesses and includes such businesses as law and accounting firms.

Kamer said that even though having a small-business economy worked against the Island in the last recession, the entrepreneurial spirit here bodes well when the current recovery, which has stalled, picks up.

"Once the recovery gets started," she said, "we should generate jobs at a very good pace."

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