Long Island’s economy saw another month of above-average job growth in April as it continues to slowly regain jobs lost early in the pandemic, state data shows.
The Island had 47,200 more jobs in April than it had a year ago, the state Labor Department reported Thursday. On a month-over-month basis, Nassau and Suffolk counties added 20,700 jobs from March into April.
Year-over-year job gains were the strongest in three sectors: leisure and hospitality, which added 16,800 jobs; professional and business services, up 8,700; and trade, transportation and utilities, up 7,000.
Sectors that lost jobs
The education and health services sector saw the biggest loss over the year, losing 800 jobs, with the decline most pronounced at private colleges.
Despite the overall gains, the Island’s economy remains 40,700 jobs, or 3%, below pre-pandemic levels. At the start of the year, the Island was 3.8% below the pre-COVID job counts.
“Overall, this was a really good report,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst with the Labor Department’s Hicksville office. “It showed another month of solid job growth."
The numbers were particularly strong among bars, restaurants and entertainment businesses, Patel said. The Island’s leisure and hospitality sector added 5,100 jobs from March into April, more than double the typical gain for the month.
“The leisure and hospitality sector is heading into the summer hiring season on a very strong note," she said.
Big gains for restaurants
Bars and restaurants, for example, reported their third consecutive month of above-average gains. As of April, those businesses are only 300 jobs below pre-pandemic levels, a positive sign for the region’s overall recovery.
“We’re almost back to where we were prior to the pandemic,” Patel said, adding that the Island may see a full return to pre-COVID employment levels in the sector this summer.
"At the pace that we’re going, it seems like we’re heading in that direction,” she said. “It just depends on if they can find enough workers."
While businesses in the sector have been regaining jobs at a fast pace, John Rizzo, economist and professor at Stony Brook University, said headwinds like the rising cost of gasoline could have an impact.
“On the one hand, the higher prices you would expect would be a negative,” Rizzo said. “On the other hand, it’s probably going to discourage long-distance traveling, so it could mean there are more people taking short distance trips to Long Island.”
Rizzo added that growth in the leisure and hospitality sector is more than an indication of how the summer will go for those businesses. Because consumer spending in the sector is discretionary, if restaurants and bars are hiring, it shows they expect heavy foot traffic.
“That type of spending gets hurt first if there’s real concern or fear of a recession,” Rizzo said. “If hiring is strong, that says that consumers still have confidence to spend.”