A help wanted sign outside Wild Honey, an Oyster Bay restaurant, in...

A help wanted sign outside Wild Honey, an Oyster Bay restaurant, in June. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The number of jobs on Long Island rose on an annual basis last month compared with August of last year, though rising interest rates may have slowed growth, state data shows.

The local economy gained 31,500 jobs over the year in August, a boost of 2.5%, according to data from the state Labor Department released Thursday. The Island’s total number of jobs remains below pre-pandemic levels though, and was short 36,900 jobs, or 2.7%, from job counts in August 2019.

Despite the year-over-year gain, however, the Island saw job losses grow above normal levels on a month-to-month basis.

From July to August, Long Island usually loses about 1,200 private sector jobs as the summer hiring season ends and the need for extra workers shrinks. This year, the number of jobs lost hit 5,900.

“That gap is quite big so the data kind of shows that the job market cooled slightly in August,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst for the Labor Department’s Hicksville office.

Even so, Patel said, the Island’s total number of private sector jobs — 1.1 million last month — means the month-to-month losses are not a cause for concern. Additionally, the losses were spread throughout the economy and not concentrated in any one sector.

“Typically, in August, almost every sector sheds jobs,” she said. “This August most sectors lost a bit more jobs than is typical.”

John Rizzo, economist and Stony Brook University professor, said the heightened job losses from July to August could be the impact of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to rein in inflation.

“That probably reflected the rising interest rates, mortgage rates and generally the cooling off of the economy,” Rizzo said. Given the increased cost of borrowing, “employers are being a little more circumspect about hiring and investment.”

Interestingly, the leisure and hospitality sector, which often relies on short-term seasonal hires during the summer months, saw far fewer job losses last month than the norm. And on an annual basis, the sector leads the local economy in terms of overall job gains, growing by 10,000 jobs in August compared with the same month last year.

The Island’s leisure sector lost only 100 jobs month-over-month in August, when a loss of 700 jobs is the average, Patel said.

Patel said many employers in the sector, especially bars and restaurants, may have been more aggressive in holding onto summer hires given the tight labor market and competition for service workers.

Rizzo said the employers in the sector likely saw increased foot traffic this summer due to consumers’ desire to “get out there and live in a post-pandemic environment as much as possible.”

For some employers, the summer season marked a return to normalcy.

“We feel like this year kind of picked up from where we left off in 2019,” said Paul Gentile, co-owner of Adventureland, a family-owned and operated amusement park in Farmingdale.

This year marked the first time since 2019 that the 60-year-old park was able to return to its normal operating months. In 2020, the park was unable to operate due to mandated pandemic business closures. Last year the park wasn’t allowed to open until mid-April because of state guidance on amusement businesses.

“You can say it was a relief,” Gentile said. “It was back to business as usual.”

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