The Long Island economy had 21,000 more jobs in April than a year earlier, its strongest showing since 2016, state data released Thursday show.
The trade, transportation and utilities sector had the biggest gains, with 8,100 more jobs year over year, the Labor Department said. That gain was largely because of retail, which added 4,300 jobs.
The Island's leisure and hospitality sector added the second-highest number of jobs — growing by 4,000. The construction and private-education and health-care sectors tied for the fourth-highest number of jobs last month, with 2,700 more than a year earlier. The health-care growth came after two months of losses that confounded some economists.
"Most health-care providers have not reported any slowdown in hiring, and job postings remain at historically high levels," said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.
Overall, the private sector grew on Long Island by 19,400 jobs, while government added 1,600.
One factor in the growth of retail jobs: While malls are struggling, a number of supermarkets and retailers have expanded on Long Island, including ShopRite, Best Market and T.J. Maxx, Patel said.
Best Market, the Bethpage-based supermarket chain, opened a store in Syosset in April that employs about 100. The company has 24 stores on Long Island and plans to open groceries in Center Moriches this summer and in Plainview early in 2019, said Or Raitses, vice president.
"The increase in retail jobs in terms of supermarkets is pretty easily explained by some of the openings that happened throughout the year," Raitses said.
Also driving the company's job growth is the increase in the number of customer purchases on its Instacart internet operation, he said. Those orders are handled in the stores, he said.
"We're keeping jobs in the community because the orders are being fulfilled in the retail locations," he said.
Todd Kirschner, who co-owns Trio Hardware in Plainview, with his wife, Ritsa, said that after a first quarter of declining sales year over year because of bad weather, the second quarter is looking better. He attributes the improved results to the company's move to a bigger location in Plainview that allows the business to offer more merchandise. And he plans to add two employees to the staff of 15.
"We're seeing a growth pattern," he said. "As long as we can keep people shopping local, we will be OK."
Retail's employment trends this year have also been strong because the industry hired fewer workers during the holiday season and, thus, had fewer to let go, Patel said.
In December retailers added only 800 jobs, when they typically add 4,500, Patel said. And in January and February the sector typically shrinks by 14,500 workers but shed just 8,500, she said.
“So even though we had a super-weak December [in terms of job gains], the smaller-than-average loss in January and February more than made up for that,” she said.
The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren’t adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in employment.
The Island's 1.6 percent job growth for April matched the nation's and surpassed the state's 1.1 percent growth in the same period. The state and national data also aren't seasonally adjusted.
The Labor Department will release the April unemployment rate on Tuesday. In March the rate climbed to 4.6 percent, from 4.2 percent in March of last year.