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LI jobless rate ticks up but job market still strong, labor analyst says

Job applicants wait in line at a job

Job applicants wait in line at a job fair at Joseph M. Barry Career and Technical Education Center in Westbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Island’s jobless rate inched up to 3.6% in December, a 0.3 percentage point increase over the same month in 2018, marking the fifth consecutive month of increases, according to state Labor Department data released Tuesday.

The unemployment rate on the Island was 3.3% in December 2018.

“It seems from the data that we’ve seen from the past several months that we’re at an inflection point with respect to the unemployment rate,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the Labor Department’s Hicksville office.

Still, Patel said, given that the Island continues to add jobs and that the unemployment rate remains below 4% — a percentage many economists consider to be full employment — the labor market doesn’t appear to be showing signs of deterioration.  

“Unemployment is still relatively low from a historical basis,” she said. “Looking at the jobs numbers, we still have net growth on Long Island. Anecdotally, from the jobs opening data we have, it shows that companies across nearly every industry are hiring."

Long Island Association's John A. Rizzo, the chief economist for the regional business group, said he makes little of the consecutive month of increases to the jobless rate. 

"We’re still way below what’s defined as full unemployment,” Rizzo said. "There was a small decline in the number of people employed compared to 2018, but this was still a very high level of employment historically.”

Nassau County’s unemployment rate increased 0.2 percentage points to 3.4% last month. Suffolk saw an increase of 0.4% to 3.8% in December.

New York City’s jobless rate was down 0.8 percentage points to 3.2% last month.

The Town of Southampton had the highest unemployment rate of any municipality on Long Island, at 4.8%. Long Beach, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and Smithtown tied for the lowest rate on the Island, with a 3.2% jobless rate.

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