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Long Island job market expands but growth still weak, data show

The Island had a year-over-year gain of 4,900 jobs in December, compared with a 100-job year-over-year loss in November, Labor Department data show.

Students looking for jobs at a nursing career

Students looking for jobs at a nursing career expo in Woodbury meet recruiters from Northwell Health hospitals on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island employment market gained jobs in December, after shrinking in November. But job growth for the latest month remained weak, state data released Thursday show.

The local employment market grew by a net 4,900 jobs in December from December 2016, Labor Department data show. That followed a year-over-year loss of 100 jobs in November, the first loss for any month since May 2010. That number was revised down from the 900-job decline first reported.

December represented “a little bit of a bounce back,” said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.

The slower growth could indicate a tight job market with some jobs going unfilled, said John A. Rizzo, a Stony Brook University economics professor and chief economist for the Long Island Association trade group.

“December job gains were modest on Long Island, consistent with a labor market already near full employment levels,” he said.

But Patel said, “It’s hard to say how much of the slowdown is due to the fact that companies want to hire but have a hard time finding qualified applicants.”

The local job market largely lost steam as 2017 wore on, after peaking at February’s 29,500 year-over-year job increase.

In the latest report, the private-education and health-services sector continued to lead employment gains, with 7,500 more jobs, almost all in health care. The leisure and hospitality sector was second, with 4,200 jobs.

“Strong jobs growth in leisure and hospitality suggests that discretionary spending may be on the rise,” Rizzo said.

Construction came in third, posting a 2,200 job gain.

A number of local projects are boosting the numbers, Patel said, such as the Ronkonkoma Hub mixed-use project.

“Construction activity should remain strong as projects are in the pipeline,” she said.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector had the biggest declines, down 4,000 jobs, largely because of its retail subsector.

The private sector gained 5,600 jobs, while the government sector lost 700 jobs, primarily because of shrinking federal employment, the data show.

Last month, the Island’s overall employment rose to 1.357 million jobs, from 1.352 million a year earlier.

The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren’t adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in employment

Long Island’s 0.4 employment growth for December compared with the Ithaca metro area’s 2.7 percent, the highest in the state. It’s the home of Cornell University. New York City’s employment rose 1.5 percent.

The Labor Department will release the Island’s December unemployment rate on Tuesday. The jobless rate rose to 4.4 percent in November, from 3.9 percent in November 2016.

The next employment report will be released in March, along with revisions for 2017.

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