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Nassau GDP $84.4 billion, Suffolk GDP $78.5 billion, feds say

Production lines at PL Developments in Westbury represent

Production lines at PL Developments in Westbury represent a small portion of Nassau County's gross domestic product.  Credit: Barry Sloan

Nassau County’s economy is slightly larger than that of Suffolk County and grew faster in the 2012-2015 period, according to data released Wednesday.

Nassau’s gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced in the county, totaled $84.4 billion in 2015, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis reported. Suffolk’s GDP totaled $78.5 billion in 2015.

It was the first time the bureau has released county-level GDP figures. The data were adjusted for inflation.

For comparison, national GDP totaled $17.5 trillion in 2015; GDP for the New York metro area was $1.4 trillion, according to the bureau.

Among the nation's most populous counties, Nassau ranked 34th in the size of its economy and Suffolk was 39th, said bureau spokesman Thomas Dail.

In the 2012-15 period, Nassau’s economy grew 2.7 percent and Suffolk’s grew 2 percent. However, more recently, Nassau’s economy shrank 0.2 percent between 2014 and 2015 while Suffolk’s expanded 0.3 percent.

Farmingdale State College economist Rick Weber found it worrisome that the economies of both counties grew by less than 1 percent annually between 2012 and 2015 compared with 1.3 percent for the metro area.

"The annualized growth is not great: 0.9 percent for Nassau and 0.7 percent for Suffolk," he said Wednesday. Both counties "are growing at about the rate you would expect if you put your money into the bank, not what you would expect from starting dynamic new businesses . . . Less than 1 percent is not terribly exciting."

Weber speculated that high housing costs may be one factor slowing Long Island's GDP growth.

Still, he said the data show Nassau residents "are making more per person" than Suffolk residents, and Nassau has a more forward-looking economy because services are a larger component than in Suffolk.

In 2015, manufacturing represented just 7 percent of economic activity in Nassau versus 15 percent in Suffolk. Services represented 82 percent of economic activity in Nassau compared with 70 percent in Suffolk. And government was about 12 percent in each county, according to the bureau.

Among New York State's counties, Nassau ranks No. 2 behind Manhattan in terms of size of economy. Suffolk is No. 3.

"Nassau has an advantage over Suffolk because it's closer to the city" which has a larger, fast-growing economy, Weber said.

Manhattan's GDP totaled $630 billion in 2015, the largest among the city's five boroughs. 

Queens followed with $74 billion; Brooklyn, $63 billion; the Bronx, $29 billion, and Staten Island, $11 billion.  

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group and a Stony Brook University professor, said Long Island's growth is being undermined by the shortage of skilled workers and increased poverty, which slows consumer spending. "Seventy percent of GDP is consumer spending," he said.

Rizzo and others said the predominance of manufacturing in Suffolk is due in part to lower real estate prices compared with Nassau.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the bureau, said the data are a prototype and will be refined over time. In a statement, he said, “the prototype data addresses one of the last remaining gaps in economic knowledge, offering policymakers and businesses a new tool to inform decision-making."

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