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Long Island job market loses speed, slowed by retail layoffs

Job seekers meet with mall vendor representatives during

Job seekers meet with mall vendor representatives during a job fair at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station on Sept. 30, 2016. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

Long Island’s employment market is losing speed, primarily because of retail layoffs, preliminary state data released Thursday show.

The local economy had 14,600 more jobs in September than it had in September 2015, the Labor Department said. The increase came in below August’s 15,100 year-over-year gain and July’s increase of 16,600.

The private-education and health-services sector led employment gains in the latest report, with 11,800 more jobs, almost all in health care.

At Melville-based Axion Staffing Long Island, whose placements include health care workers, the strongest demand from that sector has been for home-health aides, nurses and people who work in group homes, said senior recruiter Kenneth Curreri.

Construction ranked second in job growth last month, with an increase of 5,300 jobs.

On the minus side, the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which includes retail, posted the biggest decline, down 4,200 jobs. Retail jobs fell by 5,000.

Retail’s numbers reflect the job losses associated with the closing or sale of A&P’s Waldbaum’s and Pathmark supermarkets on Long Island, said James Brown, labor-market analyst in the department’s Brooklyn office.

“That’s the big local factor,” Brown said.

At the same time, he said the subsector has been experiencing “a good stream of new developments” such as the expansion of Dick’s Sporting Goods and the opening of Target’s new smaller-format stores.

“We are filling the gap,” he said.

Professional and business services, one of the Island’s highest-paying categories, had the second-biggest employment decline, down 1,100 jobs. That category, which includes legal and payroll services, depends a lot on business-to-business transactions and reflects the nationwide trend of declining corporate spending, Brown said.

Overall, the private sector gained 14,500 jobs, while government added just 100.

Data in the recent report suggest further weakness in the local employment market. For example, the number of private-sector jobs decreased by 9,800 between August and September, while the typical decline for that intra-month period is less than half that, Brown said.

All told, the Island had 1.327 million jobs in September, compared with 1.313 million a year earlier.

The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren’t adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in employment.

On a percentage basis, the Island’s 1.1 percent job growth compares with 2.1 percent for New York City, 1.3 percent for the state and 1.7 percent for the nation, all on the same seasonally unadjusted basis.

Among the state’s major metro areas, Ithaca, the home of Cornell University, had the strongest job growth, 5.9 percent.

The Labor Department will release the September unemployment rate on Tuesday. The jobless rate fell to 4.1 percent in August, from 4.5 percent a year earlier.


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