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LI economy adds 27,200 jobs in April

The Long Island economy had 27,200 more jobs

The Long Island economy had 27,200 more jobs in April than a year earlier, buoyed in part by post-Sandy rebuilding, according to the State Labor Department. (May 2, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Buoyed by post-Sandy rebuilding, the Long Island economy had 27,200 more jobs in April than a year earlier, the State Labor Department said Thursday.

It was the largest year-over-year increase in jobs since March 2012. The private sector gained 30,500 jobs, or 2.9 percent of the year-earlier total, the largest percentage increase among metro areas in the state.

But the local jobs data still showed two notable weaknesses. The public sector continued to shed jobs. And nearly half of the jobs gained in April were concentrated in lower-paying sectors, the department said. That trend has defined the Island's employment recovery.

Adding to those worries are recent announcements of significant layoffs at two once-key Long Island companies in industries noted for high-wage jobs.

OSI Pharmaceuticals, which was one of the most important biotech companies here before its acquisition by Astellas Pharma Inc. of Japan, said on Monday that it is closing its remaining facility in Farmingdale and laying off all of its 115 local employees.

And in March, Northrop Grumman, once the largest private-sector employer on the Island, announced that it plans to shift 850 of its 1,400 remaining Long Island jobs from Bethpage to Florida and California.

Rebuilding after superstorm Sandy boosted employment among specialty-trade contractors. That category had 5,300 more jobs than in April 2012, a 12.2 percent increase. In March, there had been a 10.7 percent year-over-year increase in specialty-trade contractor jobs, said Shital Patel, a labor market analyst in the department's Hicksville office. Construction is one of Long Island's highest-paying sectors.

All told, the Island had 1.281 million jobs in April, surpassing the 1.266 million employment reached in April 2008, before the recession began shrinking jobs.

"It's really growth across all sectors," Patel said.

The public sector, however, continued to lose jobs in April and posted the biggest decline. It had 3,300 fewer jobs, mostly because school districts continued to lay off teachers and other employees.

The biggest gains were in the trade, transportation and utilities category, which had 8,400 more jobs, largely because of robust retail employment. The second biggest increase was in leisure and hospitality, which grew by 8,000 jobs.

"If we are going to really pull out of this fragile economic situation we are in now," said economist Gregory DeFreitas, who heads Hofstra University's labor studies program, "we have to have more high-wage job improvements."

Manufacturing, also a high-paying sector, had 1,500 fewer jobs compared with a year earlier, the second-biggest decline in April.

The department uses year-over-year comparisons because the data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.

The retail sector has provided job opportunities for Sarlene Prophet, 26, of Amityville. She left a teacher aide job in June to focus on medical billing and coding classes. For financial reasons, she had to look for work soon after. She got a department store cashier's job in March. After five weeks, she left and started a higher-paying cashier's position last month at a home-improvement store.

"Overall on Long Island there are more job opportunities," she said.

Strong job growth in March helped cut the local jobless rate to 6.8 percent, the first dip below 7 percent in two years. On Tuesday the department will release April unemployment data.

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