Long Island exceeded 2019 levels for total jobs — not...

Long Island exceeded 2019 levels for total jobs — not including farm work — last August, September, and October, according to state data. Credit: AP/Nam Y. Huh

Long Island’s economy has finally surpassed the number of jobs it had prior to the pandemic, according to state revisions of jobs data released Thursday.

After annual revisions were conducted earlier this month, it was found that the Island had exceeded 2019 levels for total jobs — not including farm work — last August, September, and October, according to state data. January job counts also surpassed pre-pandemic figures.

Overall, revisions showed that the Island had added more jobs in 2023 than initially estimated.

In August 2023, the first month the number of jobs on the Island surpassed 2019 levels, the Island had a total of 1,354,600 jobs, compared with 1,353,900 jobs in August 2019. At the start of 2024, the Island had a total of 1,328,800 jobs, compared with 1,316,300 jobs in January 2020, state data shows.

Between January 2023 and December 2023, original estimates showed that the Island added 10,500 jobs above 2022, but after benchmark revisions conducted earlier this year, the state found that Nassau and Suffolk added 15,700, compared with the previous year.

“The big news is that we’re above pre-pandemic levels,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst for the state Labor Department’s Hicksville office. “This is welcome news for the region.” 

Aaron Zweback, owner of staffing agency PrideStaff in Melville, said over the past year he’s seen a slowdown in the number of employers seeking to fill openings.

“We’re probably seeing a smaller number of job orders in the last eight months,” said Zweback.

Zweback said, however, that the slowdown is in comparison with his workload right after the pandemic and is nowhere near the lows of the Great Recession some 15 years ago, for example.

“The demand for labor was so high” immediately following COVID, Zweback said. “That period of time was probably the highest I’ve ever seen it. So, when I say it’s down this past year, I’m comparing it to those numbers.”

Every March, the state Labor Department releases benchmark revisions of the previous year’s jobs data.

The monthly employment data released by the state are estimates of the number of jobs based on responses from the Current Employment Survey (CES) sample of nonfarm establishments. Those estimates are revised using job numbers reported on unemployment insurance tax reports from employers.

The Island also saw continued job growth year over year in January.

In January, the Island added 24,300 jobs over the same month in 2023, an increase of 1.9%, according to state figures.

On a month-over-month basis, the Island’s count of private sector jobs fell by 28,100 between December and January, when a loss of 45,600 jobs is typical. While nearly every sector loses jobs in that time frame, the losses this year were smaller than average, Patel said.

Patel said the smaller loss was due primarily to a drop in the number of retail jobs that are typically cut at the start of the year. Retailers on the Island added only 6,000 seasonal positions between October and December of last year, roughly half of its typical seasonal gain of 11,000 jobs, she said.

John A. Rizzo, an economist and a Stony Brook University professor, said the new numbers paint the picture of a strong economy.

“Obviously, the labor market is growing strong year over year,” Rizzo said. “We also have inflation under control, a stock market near historic highs, and unemployment near historic lows.”

Despite that, Rizzo said consumer sentiment doesn’t reflect the positive signs in the economy.

“While inflation is under control, the absolute level of food prices is high,” he said. The fact that on average the economy is doing well masks the fact that a lot of people feel left out of this improvement.”

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