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LI unemployment rate drops to 4.8 percent

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

Long Island's unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent in September, the lowest for the month since 2007, state Labor Department data released Tuesday afternoon show. The rate fell from 5.9 percent in September 2013.

Other data in the report suggest that the decline may not be due entirely to job growth, but also to increasing numbers of people dropping out of the labor force, such as retirees or discouraged workers -- those unemployed who have stopped looking for a job because they don't believe they can find one. Both groups are excluded from unemployment rate calculations.

The number of unemployed Long Islanders fell by 18,400 to a total of 69,800, also the lowest number since 2007. The number of employed residents also declined, dropping by 7,300 to 1.39 million.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, said this month's data illustrate how the jobless rate, though a "convenient" measure, can be "misleading."

"While the decline in the Long Island unemployment rate seems to suggest an improved labor market, it more likely reflects a drop in labor force participation and not more people working," Rizzo said.

Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the Labor Department's Hicksville office, said the declining number of employed residents could also reflect that increased numbers of baby boomers may have retired last month. She also noted that the Island's population skews older than either the state's or the nation's.

"We're starting to see the impact of an older population on the labor force," she said.

The decline in the number of employed residents comes after a separate survey last week showed slowing job growth in September, which had 17,200 more jobs than a year earlier. In August the economy was growing at a rate of 20,000 jobs a year.

Rockville Centre had the Island's lowest jobless rate last month, 4 percent. Hempstead Village's 6.1 percent was the highest.

Long Island's overall jobless rate last month was lower than New York State's 5.6 percent, and the nation's 5.7 percent. Like the Long Island rate, these numbers aren't adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in employment.

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