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LIers flock to local eateries

If you’ve had to stand in line or jostle your way through crowds at some of Long Island’s restaurants lately, or circle for a parking spot, you’re part of the hordes of diners that have helped boost employment in the local food-service sector.

Despite persistent high unemployment and so-so consumer confidence, Long Islanders are flocking to restaurants, and state Labor Department data released Thursday confirm that.

The food-services and drinking-places category had 5,100 more jobs in March, or a 6.5 percent increase, compared with March 2012, one of the biggest employment increases last month.

Given that the local economy is still in slo-mo toward recovery, finding packed restaurants might come as a surprise. But then again, maybe not.

“People want to preserve their standard of living to the extent possible,” said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the Island’s largest business group. “And restaurant meals and going to a movie are part of that standard of living. It’s the part they can preserve most easily because they’re small-ticket items.”

Don't forget to make reservations.

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