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Long Island jobless claims dip, but still historically high, data show

A couple look at signs on the door

A couple look at signs on the door of a New York State Department of Labor office in Flushing, Queens on Thursday.   Credit: Charles Eckert

The number of jobless claims on Long Island dipped last week but remained at a stubbornly high level as the region marked its second week of the Phase 4 reopening.

Last week, 9,600 Long Islanders filed initial unemployment claims, down by more than 1,200 from the prior week, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. Despite the dip, the number of claims in Nassau and Suffolk has remained close to 10,000 for the last eight weeks, with the hospitality sector especially hard hit.

“Hotels are still running at 30-to-40% occupancy levels so they’re far from being at a level where they can have their full staff back and still make money,” Mark Irgang, president of the Long Island Hospitality Association, said Thursday.

Across the state, more than 456,000 workers in the accommodation and food service sector filed for jobless benefits between March 14 and July 18, state data show.  

Irgang said while some hotels such as the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale have opened up, and some have been able to work with government agencies to provide reduced-rate rooms for recovery and health workers, the situation remains grim for smaller operators.

“The unfortunate reality is that businesses will go under,” he said. “The small mom and pop restaurants, hotels, some of these B&Bs, they can’t afford to pay payroll.

“The people that will be able to get through this the best will be the big boys, the big brand names,” Irgang said. Still, he said he believed that because of the state’s prompt reaction to the virus, the region will be poised to benefit from pent-up demand when “things come back.”

Since the crisis began, more than 427,700 Islanders have filed jobless claims across all sectors.

Richard Vogel, dean of the school of business and professor of economics at Farmingdale State College, said the new claim numbers are “pointing to additional positive signs that we are moving along the right path,” but he added that the level of claims is still historically high.

“For each individual that’s filed a claim, it’s certainly a tragic situation,” he said. “But when we look at this from the perspective of the overall economy, the fact that claims are falling is a good sign that the effects of the phased restart of the economy are starting to show.”

Despite last week’s decline in claims, Vogel added that “the numbers have been hovering up and down by 1,000 to 1,500 claims over the last 6 to 8 weeks. So, we’re kind of working within this band.”

Across the state, more than 3.2 million New Yorkers have filed unemployment claims throughout the health crisis.

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