Long Island's unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent in March, the lowest for the month in seven years, state Labor Department data released Tuesday show. A year earlier the jobless rate stood at 5.6 percent.
Despite that improvement, the Island's labor force continued to shrink, although the pace of the decline slowed from February. The local labor force -- those residents who are working or looking for work -- dropped by 13,900 from a year earlier to a total of 1.44 million. Year-over-year data for February showed a decline of 18,100.
Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the department's Hicksville office, noted that the labor force decline last month was significantly below the average monthly drop of 21,200 for 2014 compared to 2013. Last year, the labor force suffered its biggest declines since 1990.
"The pace in the decline of the labor force has slowed," she said.
The latest data follow an employment report last week that showed weakening job growth on Long Island. The Island had 13,400 more jobs in March, compared with a year earlier, down from the 15,200-job annual growth rate in February.
The department uses year-over-year comparisons because the data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.
Hempstead Village, Riverhead Town and Southampton Town had the highest jobless rates -- 6.8 percent. Rockville Centre had the lowest, 3.8 percent. A rate under 4 percent is the classic economic definition of full employment.
Among larger metro areas around the state, Ithaca, the home of Cornell University, had the lowest unemployment rate -- 3.8 percent. Watertown-Fort Drum's 8.1 percent was the highest.
New York City's was 6.5 percent. The state's seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 5.8 percent.