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LI had 104,700 fewer jobs in December than before the pandemic

A person passes a storefront on Wellwood Avenue

A person passes a storefront on Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst earlier this month. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Long Island ended 2020 with 104,700 fewer jobs in December than it had in December 2019, state Labor Department figures show.

And while the region had begun to gradually replace some of the jobs lost in the spring's pandemic shutdown, that slow job growth all but stalled last month. The Island saw a net increase of only 1,600 jobs in December compared with November, the department reported Thursday. That comes after a gain of 9,200 jobs in November, and 18,400 jobs in October.

Across-the-board losses in the leisure and hospitality sector were the biggest factor in the region’s slower job growth, said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the department's Hicksville office.

"While we haven’t seen an acceleration in the number of mass layoffs on Long Island, the prolonged COVID pandemic has started to put a strain on local businesses," Patel said. "For example, employment in the leisure and hospitality sector remains 30.7% below year-ago levels."

The leisure and hospitality sector was down 38,200 jobs from December 2019 to last month, leading the way as the sector with the largest year-over-year declines. The sector lost 3,600 jobs on a month-over-month basis in December.

"In December, food services and drinking places lost jobs for a second consecutive month as an increase in coronavirus cases and colder weather has impacted the industry," she said.

Before winter, restaurants could rely on outdoor seating, but "with the colder weather, it’s hard to do that."

Behind hospitality, education and health services lost 22,800 jobs over the year, and 900 jobs on a month-to-month basis; professional and business services lost 13,300 jobs from 2019, and 1,200 jobs since November; trade, transportation and utilities lost 11,400 jobs since 2019, but gained 7,000 jobs month-over-month; and manufacturing lost 7,100 since December 2019 but reported a 400-job gain on month-over-month basis.

The slowdown in monthly job creation points to the broader struggles the Island's economy has been facing over the year, said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group.

"You have a below-average month-over-month change and you’re down more than 100,000 jobs over the year. That points to continued weakness in the labor market," Rizzo said.

Despite the labor market woes, Rizzo said a few key initiatives, like extended unemployment insurance benefits, an extended moratorium on evictions and greater aid to small businesses means "help is on the way."

In a small bright spot, Long Island's new weekly jobless claims showed a decline from the week before after three weeks of increases, indicating fewer new layoffs.

During the week ending Jan. 16, the Island reported that 8,166 new unemployment insurance claims were filed, nearly 23% below the 10,598 filed the week prior.

The number was more than 2 1/2 times higher than the same week last year.

Nationwide, weekly claims also dropped last week, to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to the ongoing job cuts.

The federal government said 5.1 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million the previous week. That suggests that while some of the unemployed are finding jobs, others are likely using up their state benefits and transitioning to separate extended-benefit programs.

More than 10 million people are receiving aid from those extended programs, which now offer up to 50 weeks of benefits, or from a new program – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – that provides benefits to contractors and the self-employed.

All told, nearly 16 million people were on unemployment in the week that ended Jan. 2, the latest period for which data is available. With AP

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