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LI jobless rate moves up for third straight month, report shows

Toni-Marie Jamaica, left at table, and Laurel Uvena,

Toni-Marie Jamaica, left at table, and Laurel Uvena, both of National Recruiting Group, speak with prospective employees during a hiring event at the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center in Hauppauge on Nov. 6. Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Island’s unemployment rate rose year-over-year to 3.5% in October – a 0.4 percentage point increase from the same month last year – marking a potential inflection point for the region’s jobless rate, state Labor Department data released Tuesday show.

The unemployment rate, which had been, for the most part, trending downward since the end of the Great Recession, "has increased on a year-over-year basis for the last three months,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the Labor Department’s Hicksville office. “The October rate is still near historical lows. But the numbers are not something to ignore.”

The unemployment rate on the Island was 3.1% in October 2018.

The number of unemployed residents -- those actively looking for work -- rose to 51,600 from 46,400 a year earlier, state data show. At the same time, the number of employed Islanders fell to 1,437,500 last month from 1,440,800 in October of last year.  Together, the two numbers make up the total labor force.

"The year-over-year number basically shows that people have lost their jobs not because they're exiting the workforce," Patel said. Increases in the unemployment rate can sometimes be the result of decreases in the overall labor force, due to retirements, geographic relocation or workers leaving their jobs to pursue education. October's year over year data, however, show that the overall labor force increased, meaning residents have "lost their jobs and they’re now unemployed,” she said.

Despite the increase in unemployment, Patel said, Long Island has continued a pattern of modest job growth and the jobless rate remains below 4%, considered among economists to mark full employment.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for regional business group the Long Island Association, said an increase in the jobless rate "is not surprising."

"The 2018 rate was unusually low," Rizzo said. "The point is that the rate is still very low. So, if I were to grade each rate, I would give October 2018 an A+ and October 2019 an A."

The relatively low rate, combined with "historically high levels" of employed residents indicate "a positive sign for holiday spending on Long Island," he said. 

Nassau County saw a 0.3 percentage point increase to its jobless rate, bringing it up to 3.4%. Suffolk’s unemployment rate also increased by 0.3 percentage points, to 3.5% in October.

New York City’s unemployment rate rose to 4.2%, up 0.2 percentage points.

The city of Glen Cove had the lowest jobless rate of any municipality on Long Island, at 3.0%. The Village of Hempstead had the highest rate, at 4.1%.

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