Long Island’s job market kicked off 2017 with the strongest growth in more than three years, powered by expanding health care and retail employment, according to state data released Thursday.
The Island had 27,900 more jobs in January than in January 2016. It was the biggest year-over-year jump since November 2013, according to state Labor Department statistics.
The private-education and health-services sector expanded the most, adding 11,200 jobs year over year. Health care grew by 12,100 jobs, accounting for all of the increase. Education services jobs shrank by 900 in the period.
Health care’s employment surge here and nationwide reflects an aging and expanding population, said James Brown, labor-market analyst in the department’s Brooklyn office.
“Health care is something everybody uses,” Brown said.
New treatments and technologies have also boosted the demand for employees to serve rising numbers of patients, Brown said. He noted that hospital mergers have actually increased health care employment.
“In most businesses, consolidation leads to job loss, but in health care it seems to lead to more services being offered,” Brown said.
Retail propelled the trade, transportation and utilities sector to the No. 2 spot in job growth. The sector had 10,900 more jobs in January, including 6,900 in retail.
Retail’s strength reflected smaller-than-usual layoffs in January, Brown said. Store owners may feel encouraged by national surveys showing rising consumer confidence, which generally translates into increased buying, Brown said.
“If they think people are more optimistic, they will be more willing to maintain staff,” he said.
Construction posted the biggest loss in January, down 1,400 jobs. But Brown said the sector had been a strong job generator and that the significant decline could reflect a lull as projects make their way from the drawing board.
Financial activities, the Island’s highest-paying sector, also shrank, losing 400 jobs.
All told, Long Island had 1.31 million private and public sector jobs in January, compared with 1.28 million a year earlier. The private sector added 24,800 more jobs, while the public sector had 3,100 more jobs. The latter’s growth was driven mostly by hiring at local public schools.
The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren’t adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in employment.
On a percentage basis, the Island’s 2.2 percent overall job growth compares with 1.5 percent for the nation and 1.4 percent for the state in the same January-to-January period.
Separately, revisions to 2016 data issued by the state Labor Department Thursday showed that job growth last year was more robust than previously estimated. The revisions raised the private sector’s average annual job count in 2016 by 7,100 jobs to a total of 1.13 million.
The revisions showed that retail employment was not as hard hit as initially estimated. Preliminary data showed retail job losses in 11 of the 12 months in 2016. But revisions erased most of those losses, showing job declines in only four of the 12 months.
Brown said because the estimated job numbers are based on a sample survey of businesses picked ahead of time, jobs created by companies not in the survey may not be included. The revised numbers, which rely on payroll tax reports, include most employers on Long Island.
The Labor Department will release the January unemployment rate on Tuesday. The jobless rate inched down to 3.9 percent in December, from 4 percent a year earlier.
Key sectors boosting employment on Long Island, from January 2016 to January 2017:
Health care: 12,100 jobs added
Retail: 6,900 jobs added
Sector losing the most jobs:
Construction: 1,400 jobs lost