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February jobless rate falls to 3.7%, from 4.8% a year earlier, data show

Job seeker Kimberly Stevens of Rocky Point, right,

Job seeker Kimberly Stevens of Rocky Point, right, speaks with recruiter Ancy Mathew of Certified Laoratories Inc. during a 2018 job fair at Newsday. Credit: John Paraskevas

Long Island’s unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent in February, the lowest for that month since 2001,  preliminary state data released Tuesday show.

The rate declined from a year-earlier 4.8 percent, according to Labor Department data.

The decline comes after the Labor Department last week reported a pickup in employment growth in February, when the local economy was expanding at an annual rate of 9,400 jobs. That topped January's year-over-year increase of 8,400 jobs. Both those months represented a turnaround from the last five months of 2018, when department revisions revealed that the local employment market was losing jobs. Those data are based on a sample survey of Long Island businesses.

Tuesday's numbers are drawn from a census survey of Long Island residents, regardless of where they work. 

The number of unemployed residents fell by 14,700 to a total of 55,000 in February, also the lowest for the month since 2001.  The number of residents with jobs grew by 26,000 to 1.42 million, a high for the month. 

“February’s report showed that Long Island’s labor market remains tight,” said Shital Patel, associate economist in the department's Hicksville office.

She noted that the number of unemployed residents in February was less than half the peak of 119,300 reached in 2010 in the aftermath of the last recession.

John A. Rizzo, economics professor at Stony Brook University and chief economist for the Long Island Association trade group, agreed.

"The labor market's strong run on Long Island just continues," he said. “People are entering the labor market in anticipation of getting jobs.” 

Across the Island, Rockville Centre had the lowest jobless rate, 3 percent. Southampton and Riverhead towns tied for the highest -- 5.6 percent. Southampton's rate usually rises this time of year because of seasonal factors.  

Around the state, Nassau's 3.5 percent unemployment rate was the lowest among the counties. Suffolk tied with Queens and Ulster for the sixth-lowest rate -- 4 percent.  

The Labor Department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren’t adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations. The Island's jobless rate compares with 4.4 percent for the state and 4.1 percent for the nation, on the same seasonally unadjusted basis.

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