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Long Island job market lost steam in March, state data shows

Job seekers Scott Danziger, 50, of Bohemia, left,

Job seekers Scott Danziger, 50, of Bohemia, left, and Stephanie Reina, 55, of Holbrook, speak with representatives from Northwell Health about employment opportunities during the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center mini job fair, on Feb. 10, 2017 at the Suffolk County Department of Labor. Credit: Heather Walsh

The pace of the Long Island employment market slowed considerably last month, with the Island’s highest-paying sectors shedding the most jobs, state data released Thursday show.

One local economist speculated that the weaker growth could be a side effect of delays in proposed tax cuts and infrastructure spending from Washington.

The Island had 19,800 more jobs in March, compared with March 2016, the state Labor Department said.

In February, the employment market was expanding at an annualized rate of 29,500 jobs. The growth for that month was revised down in Thursday’s report from the 30,600 jobs the department originally reported.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group, noted that the delayed federal proposals could be a factor in the slowdown. He said the decline also could be an expected pullback after strong growth in January and February. January had a 28,300 year-over-year job increase.

“The question is which of these competing forces will win out,” he said. “My bet is that this is a temporary pullback and that the labor market will continue to perform well.”

The private-education and health-services sector led job gains in March, with 8,600 more jobs than a year earlier. Lower-wage jobs such as home-health aide are among the fastest growing in that sector.

By contrast, many of the Island’s highest-paying sectors lost jobs: Financial activities shrank by 1,100 jobs, manufacturing shed 1,000 and construction lost 500.

Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the state Labor Department’s Hicksville office, noted that banks’ consolidation of local back-office operations continues to shrink employment in the financial-activities sector.

Despite construction’s significant loss in the latest report, Patel said its long string of increases and its 2,400-job gain between February and March bode well for the sector. “Construction is still pretty strong overall in the region,” she said.

Patel said it was unclear why manufacturing had such a significant loss.

Overall, the private sector added 16,400 jobs year over year, and the government sector grew by 3,400, mostly boosted by hiring at local public schools.

The Island had 1.32 million jobs in March, compared with 1.30 million a year earlier.

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

The Island’s 1.5 percent employment growth in March matched the nation’s and exceeded the state’s and New York City’s, both up 1.3 percent, on the same seasonally unadjusted basis.

The Labor Department will release the Island’s March unemployment rate on Tuesday. The February jobless rate ticked up to 4.6 percent, from 4.5 percent the year before.

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