Long Island’s strong job market will carry its momentum into next year, as companies continue to beef up their staffs to deal with growing demands for their goods and services, local economists and company executives said.
Construction and health care workers will be in demand because of a boom in multifamily housing and the growth of the pharmaceutical and health care industries on the Island. Workers with skills in maintaining computers and networks will find jobs, as the digital transformation of workplaces and the economy proceeds apace. And local manufacturing plants are competing fiercely for the limited supply of skilled metal workers and high-tech assemblers.
After a dismal first quarter during which the labor force shrank, the local job market came roaring back. In October, the number of employed residents, who work here or off-Island, jumped by 34,400 compared with a year earlier, the largest year-over-year increase for the month since 1996, the most recent state Labor Department data show. A separate state report, also for October, estimated that the Island added 24,600 jobs, compared with October 2014, the fastest clip for any month since 2013.
Long Island is “ending the year on a strong footing, which bodes well for next year,” said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the state Labor Department’s Hicksville office.
Local employment will remain healthy, said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group.
“The job market should continue to expand on Long Island in 2016, as general economic conditions appear to be favorable,” Rizzo said.
However, the local job market could still see some challenges. Long Island companies face a shortage of skilled labor and have difficulty attracting young workers, experts said. Higher-paid work in fields such as finance and local government is shrinking, while lower-wage areas such as home health and retail are growing.
But for now, greater optimism about the economy has translated into more hiring. Companies across a broad range of businesses are looking for workers.
Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue expects to add about 50 clinical and other support staff next year to a new cardiac care center, marketing manager Carolyn Villegas said. The hospital has 2,210 employees.
1-800-Flowers.com, the Carle Place-based online floral and gift company, which has 500 employees, temporary workers and consultants on Long Island, expects to hire 40 full-time people for its headquarters, said Maureen Paradine, senior vice president of human resources, ranging from entry-level positions to senior vice president.
NAPCO Security Technologies, an Amityville company that designs, manufactures and services high-tech security systems, plans to expand its 200-member staff by 20 to 40 people next year, including software engineers, technical-service, customer-service and shipping and receiving personnel, president Richard Soloway said.
“Because safety and security products are in high demand, due to the times we live in, we are looking to hire more,” Soloway said.
Cino Ltd., a Coram-based risk-management and cybersecurity firm, plans to add 10 to 20 full- and part-time employees, mostly technicians and sales personnel, to its staff of 25, chief executive Joseph Saracino said.
AHRC, a Brookville nonprofit that has three affiliates and about 3,000 local employees, plans to to hire about 500 people next year, mostly to fill vacancies in its day programs and group homes for people with disabilities, said Stanfort J. Perry, its associate executive director. About 40 of the new hires will staff four new group homes the agency expects to open next year, Perry said.
The demand for construction workers stems from a boom in multifamily projects, said Mitchell Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, and he expects that to continue.
“From the contractors, I think it’s safe to say they’ve seen an increase in employment in 2015 and expect to go higher,” Pally said.
Tritec Real Estate, the developer for the 1,450-residential-unit Ronkonkoma Hub project expected to break ground next summer, estimates that the first phase of the 10-year project will create 1,260 construction jobs over its first three years, said Rob Loscalzo, chief operating officer.
And Amneal Pharmaceuticals, with a local workforce of 900, plans to hire 400 more people over the next three years for its Suffolk County operations since investing about $100 million in a South Yaphank factory, said Nikita Shah, senior vice president for human resources and corporate affairs. The jobs will include research scientists, production workers, plant engineers and administrative staff.
Growing demand for goods and services is motivating most of the hiring.
In a survey released in November by Grassi & Co., a Jericho accounting firm, 83 percent of more than 100 manufacturing and distribution executives surveyed, mostly from Long Island, said they planned to expand their payrolls next year. That’s a jump from 57 percent for 2015. Of those planning to hire, 65 percent cited business growth, while 28 percent said new products and services.
Some local manufacturers reflect that optimism, even though that sector lost jobs for most of 2015. In October, manufacturing eked out a gain of 200 jobs compared to a year earlier.
CPI Aerostructures Inc., an Edgewood aerospace manufacturer, expects to add about 20 jobs in 2016 to its workforce of 290, depending on market conditions, said chief executive Doug McCrosson. Three-quarters of the new jobs will be related to manufacturing aircraft structures, he said.
The increasing digitalization of workplaces, especially hospitals and schools, is spurring demand for niche computer jobs such as Windows administration, desktop support and wireless network management, said Gary Sacks, regional vice president for the staffing company Robert Half Technology, whose oversight includes Long Island. He said the number of temporary and permanent placements in various industries on Long Island to date exceeds those of 2014.
“We are in a very good market for hiring especially as the Digital Age continues to grow,” he said. “The trend for 2016 looks to continue to be a strong market.”
Despite the optimism, the economy could face some headwinds that could restrain hiring in the new year.
A prime factor is the lack of workers with the right skills, experts said.
In a survey released in November by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the percentage of retailers and other service firms in the New York metro area that planned to hire more workers in 2016 dropped to 40 percent from 44 percent a year earlier. Difficulty finding workers with the required skills was cited as the main reason for the decline. The report didn’t address which skills the businesses were seeking.
The lack of skilled workers bedevils Long Island companies. Charles Hansen, director of manufacturing at Visiontron, a Hauppauge maker of signs and crowd-control equipment such as posts and belts, said manufacturers here can no longer count on the deep pool of skilled blue-collar workers they once enjoyed as a legacy of the once-dominant defense industry. As a result, he said, local manufacturers can’t find enough metal workers or people in sophisticated assembly work.
“It’s very difficult to find yesterday’s highly skilled workers,” he said. He said he hopes to add two workers to Visiontron’s staff of 50 for metal work and assembling.
Others bemoan the Island’s lack of affordable housing, which makes it hard to attract or retain younger workers.
“One of the biggest things is attracting folks and keeping them here,” Saracino of Cino said. “It’s expensive, so affordable housing is important.”
Gary Quinn, chief executive of Melville-based Falconstor Software Inc., said one key challenge of hiring workers on Long Island is paying them enough to compete with wages offered by New York City tech companies and to cover the cost of raising a family on Long Island, where housing prices and taxes are far above the national average.
“Some of the single people we have hired did come onboard for a reasonable salary, but after a year of experience they are being recruited for jobs in the city or other local established technology firms,” said Quinn, who plans to add up to 10 positions in 2016.
Another worrisome trend for economists is the dominance of lower-wage jobs as employment grows.
“You’re not ahead if you lose some highly paid jobs and you gain more jobs that are not well compensated,” said Herman Berliner, dean and distinguished professor of economics at Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business. “Your numbers in terms of unemployment would look impressive, but the reality is that the area is not better off.”
In fact, the three occupations projected by the state Labor Department to have the biggest percentage increases on Long Island between 2012 and 2022 are among the lowest paying. They are health-care support, personal care and service, and food preparation and serving-related employment.
Finally, external blows like fallout from more terrorist attacks in the country could also increase economic wariness and hurt hiring, Berliner said.
“I am worried about external shocks and what kind of impact that will have on the economy,” he said.
But at this point, companies are ringing in the new year with hiring.
Said Hansen, of Visiontron, “There is some momentum to the recovery of this economy.” — With Newsday Staff