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Weekly jobless claims up on Long Island but down slightly across U.S.

Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst last month.

Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst last month. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Unemployment claims on Long Island rose more than 10% last week, in contrast to a decline nationally in the number of newly jobless folks seeking state assistance.

Last week, 10,074 Long Islanders filed for benefits, the second week in a row claims for jobless aid have gone up, the state Labor Department reported Thursday. Two weeks ago, the number of locals seeking help stood at 9,118 claims.

While claims in 2021 so far remain well below the record highs seen during the first months of the pandemic last year, weekly claims remain well above historic levels. For comparison, claims during the same week a year ago hit 2,261.

At the national level, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined to 779,000 last week, a still high total that shows that jobs are continuing to be cut.

New U.S. jobless claims last week were the lowest in two months and represented a weekly decline of about 4%.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group, said the divergence between the national and local claims are not something "we can read anything into" and that the focus should be on the stubbornly high levels of jobless applicants overall.

"It just points to the economic problems with COVID and the ongoing need for stimulus," Rizzo said. "In this case the levels are more important than the trends," he said.

Thursday's report reflects weak hiring, which is a key reason President Joe Biden is pushing Congress to enact a $1.9 trillion economic rescue program, on top of a $900 billion federal aid package that was approved late last year.

The national decline in applications for unemployment aid over the past few weeks suggests that layoffs have eased slightly as several states have loosened restrictions on restaurants, bars and other service firms, causing these businesses to retain workers.

Even so, the persistence of elevated layoffs remains a cause for concern.

All told, 17.8 million people were receiving unemployment benefits in the week that ended Jan. 16, the latest period for which data are available. That’s down from 18.3 million from the week before. With the AP

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