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LI unemployment rate drops to 4.1% in August

Loraine Sommer, a district sales coordinator for Aflac,

Loraine Sommer, a district sales coordinator for Aflac, speaks with Masood Khan, of Huntington Station, about sales associate positions at the Suffolk County job fair held at the West Babylon Public Library on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo Credit: Veronique Louis

Long Island’s unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in August from 4.5 percent in August 2015, a trend that a state labor analyst said could lead toward higher wages.

The August jobless rate was the lowest since 2007, the state Labor Department reported Tuesday.

“Basically, we’re hitting almost historically low unemployment rates,” said Shital Patel, a state labor market analyst. “That tighter labor market will result in greater increases in wage rates here.”

In August, 60,800 Long Islanders were unemployed out of a labor force of 1,494,200.

Patel said that she has been receiving anecdotal reports that companies have been struggling to find new hires. “Eventually something has to give,” she said.

Unemployment statistics do not include workers who no longer are attempting to find a job. But Patel said that as of August, 7,100 more Long Islanders were employed compared with August 2015, while there were 5,800 fewer unemployed, indicating that 1,300 discouraged workers had returned to the labor force.

The department focuses on 12-month changes because the data aren’t adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in employment.

Long Island fared better than New York State overall, which had a 4.9 percent unemployment rate and the nation as a whole with 5.0 percent. Bucking the trend of lower unemployment in New York state’s metropolitan areas was New York City, whose jobless rate rose to 5.7 percent compared with 5.3 percent in August 2015.

Nassau County’s jobless rate for August fell 0.3 percentage points to 3.9 percent while Suffolk County’s rate dropped 0.4 percentage points to 4.3 percent.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, said in a statement that labor force participation and the number of people employed in August “stood at multiyear highs.”

Those factors could help drive consumer spending and economic growth in the region, he said.

The jobless numbers are based on a survey of Long Island residents regardless of where they work.

Hempstead Village had Nassau County’s highest unemployment rate at 4.9 percent while Long Beach city had the lowest at 3.3 percent. The Town of Babylon had Suffolk County’s highest rate at 4.8 percent while the towns of Huntington, Smithtown and Southampton were tied for the lowest rates in the county at 3.6 percent.

Statewide, Long Island’s 4.1 percent unemployment rate ranked just a shade below the leading metro areas of Glen Falls and Albany-Schenectady-Troy at 4.0 percent.

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