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LIA economist frets over loss of 'middle-wage' jobs

Housing starts fell in March, but permits to

Housing starts fell in March, but permits to build soared, promising a good bump in construction jobs nationwide. This house is under construction in Melville. (Feb. 8, 2012) Credit: Jason Andrew

The best thing you can say about the Long Island job market is that at least it’s growing, albeit slowly, the latest State Labor Department data show.

But some economists worry about the quality of that growth. Recently, the most consistent employment expansions have been in higher-paying jobs as well as lower-wage ones, with significant weakness in the middle.

That concerns Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, who notes that middle-wage sectors such as construction and manufacturing continue to bleed jobs, jeopardizing employment opportunities for blue-collar workers.

“What we are seeing is a hollowing out of the middle-wage portion of the job market,” Kamer said. “That is leading to more income inequality. We see this nationally and we see this on Long Island.”

Kamer’s comments came after the State Labor Department said Thursday that the construction sector had 4,700 fewer jobs in May, compared with a year earlier, the biggest drop of any category. And the manufacturing sector was down 900 jobs, compared with a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the professional and business-services category, one of the highest-paying on the Island, was up 6,000 jobs, the most of any sector. At the other end of the wage spectrum, the health care and social-assistance category, one of the Island’s lowest-paying sectors, showed a 5,500-job gain, compared with a year earlier.

All told, the Island had 9,100 more jobs in May, compared with a year earlier.
For more on how the various sectors performed, click here.

Above, house under construction in Melville in February.  Long Island's construction sector continues to bleed jobs.

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