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LI job growth slowed in May to a year-over-year gain of 14,100

Alberto Hoyas of Hicksville speaks with Jodi Victor,

Alberto Hoyas of Hicksville speaks with Jodi Victor, an HR specialist at ACLID Vocational Services, during a job fair for adults with special needs last week at Farmingdale State College. Credit: Linda Rosier

Long Island’s employment market expanded in May but lost some momentum, preliminary state data released Thursday show.

The Island had 14,100 more jobs last month than in May 2017, the state Labor Department said.

Year-over-year data for April showed that the local economy was growing at an annual rate of 18,500 jobs. That number was revised down from the 21,000-job expansion the Labor Department first reported.

Still, the job market remained strong.

“We’re eight years into job expansion here on Long Island,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector, which includes retail, led employment growth with a gain of 5,300 jobs. That sector has been the leading job generator on the Island so far this year, supplanting health care, which had been a longtime job leader, even during the last recession.

Health care lost 100 jobs in the latest period.

“Some lower [paying] jobs in the health care sector that have been lost may have been lost as these individuals switch to higher-paying job opportunities in other sectors,” said John Rizzo, chief economist of the Long Island Association trade group.

Construction came in second, with a 4,400-job increase, which lifted its employment to 85,900 jobs in May, the highest for the sector in any month since at least 1990, when the Labor Department began using its current methodology.

“There’s just a lot of activity happening” in construction, Patel said, including multifamily and assisted-living projects and the Ronkonkoma Hub.

Scott Burman, president of Garden City-based Engel Burman Construction, said his company, which has some multifamily and assisted-living projects, has hired about six people in the past couple of months. He said he would have hired more if he could have found more. He said he has to compete with Manhattan construction companies, which pay 20 to 30 percent more.

“It’s been harder and harder to find people,” he said. “We are working with recruiters. We are constantly meeting with people.”

The staff has grown to 80 from 50 in the past couple of years, Burman said. Besides office staff, the company also has field employees like project managers and project superintendents, he said. Project work has grown from about $150 million a year to nearly $500 million in the past six to seven years, he said.

Long Island’s highest-paying sector — financial activities — lost 2,000 jobs, the biggest decline.

The Island’s 1 percent employment increase was lower than the state’s 1.2 percent and the nation’s 1.6 percent.

“This may simply reflect that the existing number of employed individuals on Long Island is high,” Rizzo said.

The Island had 1.365 million jobs in May, compared with 1.351 million a year earlier.

The jobs report is based on a survey of Long Island businesses. The Labor Department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren’t adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations.

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