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Long Islanders filed 700 fewer unemployment claims last week

Long Island workers prepare for the Fourth of

Long Island workers prepare for the Fourth of July holiday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

More than 10,500 Long Islanders filed jobless claims last week, a decrease of more than 700 claims from the week prior, state data released Thursday shows.

Since the start of the health crisis, more than 407,000 Islanders have made initial unemployment claims, according to Labor Department reporting. Statewide, more than 3 million New Yorkers have sought jobless aid since the week ended March 14.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group, said the new numbers show “a flattening” in the number of new initial claims, and he said he is hopeful that as the region’s reopening continues, fewer claims will be made weekly.

During the most recent week, 10,562 Islanders filed for unemployment, compared with 11,276 the week ended June 27; 10,873 the week ended June 20; and 11,742 claims the week ended June 13.

The region hit the peak of unemployment claims the week ended April 11, with 59,526 claims.

“As we continue to reopen, these numbers should be getting better,” Rizzo said. “We’re just starting Phase 4. I would think that next week and the week after we could maybe expect some small improvements.”

In Nassau County, 5,208 Islanders filed unemployment claims last week, down from the 5,531 county residents who filed a week before. Claims in Suffolk also saw a week-to-week decline, dropping to 5,354 claims last week from 5,745 claims the previous week.

While Rizzo said he believes the Island’s phased reopening is being handled correctly, he said it’s hard to say whether the progress can be maintained long-term without a vaccine.

“It remains to be seen if we can stay in Phase 4,” he said. “Even if we’re doing OK with Phase 4, we probably won’t be able to be completely open and confident until we have some kind of a vaccine or better therapies.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the region’s recovery, Rob Basso, chief executive of Associated Human Capital Management in Plainview, which handles payroll and HR functions for about 1,000 small and mid-size firms, said he has reasons to be optimistic.

“I do not think that the picture is doom and gloom,” Basso said.

Looking at payroll data compiled from his primarily tristate business clients, Basso said that his average client printed 21 paychecks in January, and that after the COVID-19 outbreak in the state, the average number of checks dropped by almost 15%, to 18, as companies began furloughing and laying off works.

In the last month-and-a-half, coinciding with local reopening efforts, the average number of payroll checks is up to 19, he said.

“That means that 5% has been gained back,” Basso said. “I think that the unemployment numbers don’t show the absolute true story, not to take away from the people who are hurting. … I think the fall is going to get even better.”

Additionally, Basso said, of the roughly 15% of his clients who shut down business operations earlier in the pandemic, only 5% remain unopened, largely represented by “ultrasmall” firms in industries like hospitality.

“Entrepreneurs will survive,” he said. “We’re on the mend, at least in the New York area.”

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