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LI job growth slower than previously reported, data show

Suffolk County's One-Stop Employment Center hosted a job

Suffolk County's One-Stop Employment Center hosted a job fair at the Lindenhurst Public Library last week. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Job growth on Long Island was modestly slower in 2019 than preliminary data showed, state data released Thursday shows.

Revised data shows that fewer new jobs were created on the Island than initially projected, with sharper decreases in the last half of the year in job sectors such as construction and retail. Local economists said the decrease isn’t as dramatic as previous revisions.

“I think a modest downward revision to the annual job count is not a big deal,” said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group and an economics professor at Stony Brook University.

Earlier data showed the Island with a year-over-year gain of 8,100 jobs in the private sector for 2019;  the revised figures put the gain at just 800 jobs.

“Relative to the economy of Long Island, overall it’s a small revision,” Rizzo said. The Island reported a total of 1.32 million jobs in January.

Combined with the region’s unemployment rate, which has been below 4%, the economy is “still very strong,” Rizzo said. “We’ve had an unemployment rate that’s lower than what’s considered full employment…it’s not a concern for the labor market overall.”

Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the state labor department’s Hicksville office, said that the downward trends largely impacted the construction and retail sectors.

“Most major downward revisions were limited to certain industries like restaurants, retail, and construction,” Patel said. “Specifically, the downward revision to the retail industry more accurately reflected local store closures over the past year.

"In a positive note, job counts in the region’s higher paying sectors, like financial activities and professional and business services, were revised higher in 2018 and 2019,” Patel said.

In 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as part of a cost-cutting measure, took over the estimating of state and local jobs data.

Experts at the time said that because of BLS’ bigger role, state economists would have less input in the fine-tuning of the numbers to reflect labor occurrences at the local level, resulting in discrepancies in the monthly reporting of jobs data and annual revisions.

Revised data are more comprehensive, as a rule, because they are calculated using state unemployment insurance tax records, whereas preliminary data are based on sample surveys of businesses.

Separately, in the latest monthly preliminary jobs report, the Island saw an increase of 7,900 jobs in January over the same period last year.

Five of the nine private industry sectors saw jobs gains in January over the same month last year.

Health care saw an increase of 4,600 jobs; leisure and hospitality grew by 3,400 jobs; other services, a category that includes laundry services, grew by 1,300 jobs; professional and business services reported an increase of 1,100 jobs; and trade, transportation, and utilities added 200 jobs.

The January figures and 2019 revisions do not reflect any impact on employment caused by the spread of the coronavirus, which the WHO declared a pandemic earlier this week.

“The world has changed so much since these numbers have been out,” Rizzo said. “We’re going through very interesting times.”

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