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Long Island adds 6,500 jobs, mostly in health care, 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 Laboratories Inc. during an April 25 job fair at Newsday in Melville. Credit: John Paraskevas

The number of jobs on Long Island continued to edge up last month, largely driven by employment increases in  health care but with manufacturing providing a surprising bright spot, state data released Thursday show. 

The Long Island economy grew by 6,500 jobs in April from the year before, according to the state Labor Department. That compared to a 9,000-job year-over-year gain in March.

The health care sector had the largest employment gains in April, with 10,600 more jobs year over year. Much of that growth was contributed by gains in ambulatory health care services. Only four of the nine job sectors posted job gains in April. 

Construction posted a gain of 5,500 jobs last month, representing an increase of 6.6 percent, year over year. 

A driving force behind the growth in construction employment has been the buildout of multi-family housing as part of several downtown redevelopment projects, including the Ronkonkoma Hub.

Additionally, health care, the region's biggest job generator, has contributed to construction's growth through the expansion of outpatient facilities and urgent-care operations.

While health care and construction led most of the growth in April, increases in the manufacturing of durable goods came as a welcome surprise, said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the Labor Department’s Hicksville office.

Manufacturing added 1,600 jobs in April, a 2.3 percent increase over last year.

"The numbers this month in manufacturing were really good news," Patel said. "The bulk of the increase was in the durable space. That includes a lot of Long Island’s aerospace and defense manufacturers."

Manufacturing has seen job increases "here or there" in recent years, but most of that growth has been in nondurable goods, which include categories such as pharmaceuticals and food production, Patel said. 

"This particular jump in durable goods was definitely a bright spot," she said. 

The total number of jobs in Nassau and Suffolk counties rose to 1.35 million in April, a 0.5 percent increase from a year earlier. In April 2018 Long Island had 1.34 million jobs.

Overall, the employment figures suggest more "fragile growth" than some would hope, said Gregory DeFreitas, professor of economics at Hofstra University.

"There was job growth, but it continues to be modest on Long Island," DeFreitas said. Compared to New York City, which posted an increase of 2.3 percent in total jobs, or upstate regions like Syracuse and Buffalo, which posted increases of 2.2 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively, the Island's increase of 0.5 percent appears weaker in comparison, he said. 

"The city is definitely running away with faster growth,” he said. 

Additionally, he said, the loss in traditionally higher-paying sectors like professional and business services, which include accounting and legal professions, could be "potential causes for concern." 

"They’re growing nationally and in the city, but not on Long Island," DeFreitas said. 

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