Job seekers gather Oct. 7, 2014, at Nassau Coliseum to...

Job seekers gather Oct. 7, 2014, at Nassau Coliseum to attend a private sector job fair hosted by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Long Island economy had 15,200 more jobs in February than it had a year earlier, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

That number rose slightly from January, when the economy was growing at an annual rate of 14,700 jobs.

Month-to-month comparisons in the latest report indicate the toll the harsh winter weather took on employment. For example, construction was down 1,400 jobs between January and February, compared with a customary 400-job decline, said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office.

"There was some flattening out in construction, which was probably due to bad weather," Patel said.

Long Island's highest-paying category, financial activities, continued to hemorrhage jobs -- down by 1,000, to 70,900. Patel said the decline reflects banks' consolidation of branches and mortgage operations.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, noted that retail, one of the Island's largest employers, seemed weak -- up by 1,700 jobs, or just 1.1 percent.

"Consumer confidence is high on Long Island," he said. "But it doesn't seem to be translating into strong consumer purchasing that would spur hiring in retail trade. That's true at the national level, too."

The education and health-services sector led employment gains, with 6,100 more jobs, mostly powered by health care growth.

Home Instead Senior Care in Hauppauge has hired 20 home-health aides in the past six months and plans to hire more because of strong demand, said co-owner Maria Lavin.

"Our phone is always ringing," Lavin said. "We're always recruiting."

In March, Home Instead hired Islip resident Linda Hawkins as a home-health aide. Hawkins, 58, had been out of the workforce for two years to care for an ailing relative. The former group-home worker said she likes caring for people.

"It was a quick and prompt way for me to get back into the workplace," she said. "I knew there would be a lot of jobs out there."

The manufacturing and information sectors had the biggest year-over-year declines, both down 1,100 jobs. Information includes broadcast and newspaper businesses.

The private sector was up by 14,500 jobs in February, while the public sector gained 700 jobs. The public sector has been in the plus column so far this year after losing jobs for most of 2014.

All told, Long Island had 1.264 million jobs last month, compared with 1.249 million a year earlier.

The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren't adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations.

The Labor Department will release the February unemployment rate on Tuesday. The jobless rate fell to 5.3 percent in January, from 5.9 percent a year earlier.

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