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LI workers stuck in 'pay paralysis,' Hofstra study says

Long Island workers are going through a pay

Long Island workers are going through a pay paralysis, according to a Hofstra University study released Tuesday, with average wages growing only slightly from pre-recession levels. Credit: Chuck Fadely

Long Island workers are going through a "pay paralysis," according to a Hofstra University study released Tuesday, with median wages growing only slightly from pre-recession levels, and declining sharply for younger workers.

Long Island workers now typically earn 75 cents more per hour than they did before the recession, according to the study, Pay Patterns on Long Island Since the Great Recession, in the latest issue of the Regional Labor Review, a scholarly journal published by Hofstra twice a year. The wage calculations were adjusted for inflation.

Data for the study came from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, a monthly nationwide survey of 60,000 households. The study looked at roughly 4,000 Long Island workers and pooled data from three pre-recession years -- 2005 to 2007 -- and the latest three full post-recession years, 2012 through 2014. The data have a roughly 4 percent to 5 percent margin of error.

The stagnation of pay on Long Island mirrors the national labor market, said economist Gregory DeFreitas, author of the report and director of the Center for the Study of Labor and Democracy at Hofstra. He said the dismal trend is somewhat surprising, given the region's advantages, including higher proportions of college graduates, good schools and higher rates of union membership.

Nonetheless, Long Island has struggled with its own economic hurdles, such as high costs and a drain of companies from the region.

Hardest hit among local workers were the young.

Among men 16 to 24, hourly wages dropped to $10.31 in recent years from $11.42 per hour in the mid-2000s. Women 25 to 34 years old also took a 10 percent pay cut. Their hourly wages dropped by $2.05 to $18.56.

The percentage of Islanders under 25 who are employed fell from 55.6 percent in 2005 to 37 percent today, a worse performance than in the nation as a whole.

One group that gained was women age 55 to 64, who are earning $2.87 more than before the recession. Still, they earned only 77 percent of the pay received by men of the same age.

Median wages for African-American workers rose 68 cents to $16.45, and Hispanics saw wage rates go up $1.67 to $15, since before the recession. Both groups earn less than 75 percent of the median wage for non-Hispanic white workers, though pay gaps have narrowed.

For all working-age men on the Island, median wages are no higher than they were before the recession.

One positive note: Long Island workers' median pay rose 5 percent in 2014 from the previous year, DeFreitas said. "We can hope it's not a one-year wonder," he said.

The report "shows areas where we need to make more progress," DeFreitas said. "It speaks to the need to provide better-paying job opportunities to younger workers."

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