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LI jobless rate shrinks to 4.6 percent, though working ranks dip

Job seekers gather Oct. 7, 2014, at Nassau

Job seekers gather Oct. 7, 2014, at Nassau Coliseum to attend a private sector job fair hosted by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The unemployment rate on Long Island dropped to 4.6 percent in November, from 5.3 percent a year earlier, state Labor Department data released Tuesday show.

The number of employed workers actually slipped by more than 16,000 from November 2013, to 1,385,300. The number of unemployed workers looking for jobs fell more than 11,000 from November 2013, to 67,200.

People who would prefer to work but aren't actively looking for a job -- so-called discouraged workers -- aren't counted in the unemployment rate.

"The good news is that the unemployment rate on Long Island is low relative to the state and to the nation," said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association.

The local unemployment rate isn't adjusted for seasonal swings in hiring, such as increased hiring for the holiday shopping season. Calculated on that unadjusted basis, the state unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, and the U.S. rate is 5.5 percent.

Overall, Rizzo said that the local data indicate a gradually improving job market, but he cautioned against forgetting about discouraged workers or those who are underemployed -- such as part-time workers who wish they worked full time.

"Labor markets are improving but there is still work to be done," he said.

The Island has been experiencing a slide in employed workers for some time now, said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the state Labor Department's Hicksville office.

"Through all of 2014 we've had a year-over-year decrease in our labor force," she said. The cause is uncertain, she said, because local data do not include details on who is leaving the employment market.

But Long Island's aging workforce could be one likely reason, she said, as baby boomers continue to retire.

"With our aging population, we're seeing more people retiring," she said.

Nassau County's unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent from 5.1 percent a year earlier. Suffolk's unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent from 5.5 percent.

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