The Long Island job market picked up its pace in August and posted its strongest increase in nine months, data released by the state Labor Department Thursday show.
Year over year, the local economy had 20,000 more jobs, or a 1.6 percent increase, compared with a year earlier, the fastest growth since November. The private sector added 22,600 jobs, but a 2,600 job decline in the government sector cut overall employment growth.
Around the state, on a percentage basis, the Island's job growth was second only to New York City's 2.6 percent. Syracuse registered the worst, with a 1.2 percent decline.
All told, the Island had 1.30 million jobs in August, compared with 1.28 million in August 2013.
The department uses year-over-year comparisons because the local data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.
Trade, transportation and utilities, including retail, led employment gains with an increase of 11,600 jobs. Retail accounted for the largest chunk of that growth, with 5,700 more jobs.
Strong back-to-school hiring boosted August retail growth, said Shital Patel, a labor market analyst in the department's Hicksville office. August had 1,500 more retail jobs than July, when the typical month-to-month gain is 300, Patel said.
John A. Rizzo, chief economist of the Long Island Association, said he believes those August numbers bode well for holiday hiring.
"It means an early ramp-up to the holiday season," he said.
Despite the job market's progress, some local economists still worry that lower-wage sectors like retail continue to dominate job growth, which they believe contributes to wage stagnation.
"We'll take any jobs we can get," said economist Gregory DeFreitas, who heads Hofstra University's labor studies program. "But in terms of making a real dent in pay stagnation we need not just low-level jobs but more of the better-paying jobs."
Still, plenty of job seekers are finding jobs to match their skills.
Merrick resident Jason Scheer started job hunting after his former employer, staffing agency Adecco, announced in March that it was moving its Long Island headquarters to Florida
"I realized that Adecco wasn't committed to growing its business on Long Island, and I wanted to be with a company that was as invested in its future here as I was," said Scheer, 30, who was creative services manager at Adecco, which was in Melville.
For a couple of months, he said, he "passively" job hunted by posting his resumé on job boards and applying to postings sent through alerts.
"I was looking for a good opportunity," he said.
In early June he checked LinkedIn and applied through that social media site for the marketing manager job listed by Alcott HR, a human-resource services company in Farmingdale. The journalism major started there on July 25.