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LI jobless rate falls second month in a row

Employment seekers attend a job fair. (Dec. 8,

Employment seekers attend a job fair. (Dec. 8, 2009) Credit: Getty Images File

Long Island's unemployment rate fell in November for the second month in a row, dropping from 7.2 percent in October to 6.8 percent, the state said Thursday. Experts say it is another sign of an anemic recovery in the local jobs picture.

The statewide and New York City rates fell a bit as well. "We're moving in the right direction," said Labor Department economist Gary Huth, who said the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 8.6 percent last month, fell by more than he had expected, from October's 9.0 percent. New York was relatively late in entering the recession and would be expected normally to be late in recovering, he said.

But, while the rate dipped, there still were 833,900 people in the state looking for work in November. The state unemployment rate was 6.3 percent at the end of November 2008.

And government unemployment figures do not include discouraged workers who have given up looking for a job.

"We're nowhere near where we want to be," said Huth.

Long Island's unemployment rate fell from 7.2 percent in October, but that still left 100,800 people jobless - in a resident labor force of nearly 1.48 million Long Islanders - and about 21,000 more than a year ago.

"It remains a significant job loss," said economist Pearl Kamer of the Long Island Association, a business group.

The city's unemployment rate dropped from 10.3 percent to 10 percent from October to November.

The slightly improved local picture mirrors that of the nation; the U.S. unemployment rate slipped by two-tenths of a percentage point from October to November to 10 percent. The October national rate was the highest in 26 years.

The state said that the numbers of people employed in most sectors of the Long Island economy rose from October to November but that the only notable gain, 2.7 percent, was in the wholesale and retail trade category. That gain suggests businesses are more willing to purchase inventory and consumers more willing to buy it, Huth said. "I think people are feeling a little more confident that the worst is over," he said.

Another hopeful sign, he said, is an increase in temporary workers in November, which often is an early step in a jobs recovery.

Still, fewer people were employed last month in almost every sector of the Island's economy than were a year earlier, with manufacturing and construction hit hardest. One exception was educational and health services, a category that has remained robust since the recession's start in December 2007.

Meanwhile, the federal government said that the number of new claims for unemployment insurance rose nationally to 480,000 last week, up 7,000 from the previous week. That was more than economists had expected, but the four-week average of new claims fell to 467,500, the 15th straight decline and a sign that job cuts are slowing. - With AP

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