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LI’s job market adds 7,600 jobs, continuing slow growth

The health care sector shows surprising weakness, after months of leading the Island’s employment growth, state labor data show.

Nick Rogers, center, and Josh Hart, right, of

Nick Rogers, center, and Josh Hart, right, of Ridgewells Catering, speak to a prospective employee during a job fair at the East Hampton Library, Feb. 9, 2018. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The Long Island job market began 2018 the same way it ended 2017: on a slow note.

The local economy had 7,600 more jobs in January, compared with January 2017, state data released Thursday show. In December the Island’s job market expanded by just 6,300 jobs year over year.

The weakness in January was striking in the private-education and health services sector, which had long led job growth on the Island. But in January that sector slipped, expanding by just 600 jobs from a year earlier, according to state Labor Department data.

That growth rate was the sector’s slowest for January since the Labor Department adopted its current methodology in 1990, said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.

But she doesn’t expect the weakness to continue.

“While the slowdown in health care employment came as a surprise, we expect hiring activity in the industry to remain strong as an aging population requires more health care services,” Patel said.

She said she expects health care employers to struggle to fill jobs because of low unemployment and an aging workforce.

At the same time, consolidation in the industry is weighing on employment. Various health care providers have acquired health groups and practices on the Island and are limiting the number of new hires, said Lloyd Staffing in Melville, whose placements include health care employees.

“Employers are now cross-training or hiring new candidates with the expectation that they must take on additional responsibilities,” said Crystal James, senior staffing specialist at Lloyd. “Instead of hiring three people, they are now hiring one.”

Employment losses in the sector also included some of the 244 jobs lost at Northwell Health between last summer and January because of the winding down of two Northwell insurance companies, spokes-man Terry Lynam said. And “significantly” lower insurance-reimbursement rates, he said, have affected growth at the New Hyde Park-based health care system, which is the state’s largest private-sector employer.

“The level of growth was impacted by those two factors,” Lynam said.

Also on Thursday, the Labor Department issued revised data for 2017. One of the most dramatic changes was for November, when a 100-job loss in non-farm employment was revised to a gain of 10,500 jobs.

Revisions also showed healthier numbers for non-durable manufacturing, which is buoyed by pharmaceutical operations, Patel said. That sub-sector was revised from an average gain of 100 jobs for 2017, compared with 2016, to a gain of 1,000 jobs for the year, Patel said.

“We have data that show that manufacturing is actually growing on Long Island — at least in the nondurable sector,” she said.

Employment growth in the latest report was led by the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added 5,000 jobs. That sector includes retail. Leisure and hospitality followed, with 3,800 more jobs.

The top job growth in 2017 came at the beginning of the year, when January saw a 20,300-job increase over January 2016. That latter number was revised down from the 28,300 the department reported earlier.

The latest report showed the Island had a total of 1.307 million jobs in January, up from 1.300 million a year earlier.

The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren’t adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.

On a percentage basis, Long Island’s 0.6 percent job growth lagged the state’s 1 percent and the nation’s 1.5 percent in the same unadjusted period.

The Labor Department releases January’s unemployment rate on Tuesday. The December jobless rate rose to 4.2 percent, from 3.9 percent a year earlier.

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