The U.S. economy added 96,000 jobs in August, far below economists' expectations.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent, from 8.3 percent the month before, but only because thousands of people gave up looking for work and weren't counted as unemployed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.
Long Island's employment numbers, like the federal data, have shown weak growth. In July, the latest month available, the Island had 7,500 more jobs than a year earlier, according to State Labor Department data.
The Island's unemployment rate shot up to 8 percent in July, from 7.2 percent a year before, the highest in 2½ years.
The local numbers are compared year over year because, unlike federal data, they aren't adjusted to account for seasonal swings.
The higher jobless rate here indicated that more unemployed people were jumping back into the local labor market in hopes of finding a job, said Irwin Kellner, of Port Washington, chief economist for MarketWatch. com, a financial information website.
The confidence in the job market here could be higher than nationwide, he said, because the Long Island economy is largely service-based and that sector has been performing relatively well.
"It's very possible that attitude didn't deteriorate on Long Island the way it did in the rest of the economy," he said.
Another statistic in the latest national report is the loss of 15,000 manufacturing jobs, the most in two years. Manufacturing led the economy out of the recession.
Long Island executive Charles Hansen, director of manufacturing at Visiontron Corp. in Hauppauge, said he isn't cutting jobs, but he hasn't hired since last year because of the economic slowdown. Visiontron makes posts, belts, ropes and signs used for crowd control in places like banks and retail stores. Hansen expected strong demand as retailers began gearing up for the holiday season. But he said that hasn't happened.
"This economy is not producing the demand for this kind of product that should be out there," said Hansen, who has about 50 employees.
Manufacturers he has talked to believe that could change if Mitt Romney is elected president.
"The feedback is generally the same," he said. "The apprehension in the market . . . is due to the current administration."
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected the national economy would add 130,000 jobs in August. Among the new jobs, the leisure and hospitality sector added the most -- 34,000 jobs.
Long Island has been losing jobs in that category. But Rob Basso, owner of Advantage Payroll Services in Freeport, said he has seen an uptick in hiring among some of his clients in the food-service and hotel business.
"Some have said they will keep [seasonal] staff on through the fall," said Basso, who has about 2,000 clients.
And Basso himself has hired two employees in the past two months and hopes to hire four more.
"We're in growth mode to compete with the big guys," he said.
With reports from The Associated Press.