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Long Island jobless rate up to 7.1%

Job seekers at a One Stop Employment Center

Job seekers at a One Stop Employment Center in Brentwood earlier in July. Credit: Steve Pfost, 2011

Long Island's unemployment rate rose to 7.1 percent in June from 6.7 percent in May, more evidence the local employment market is continuing to slow, according to State Labor Department data released Tuesday.

June marked the third consecutive month of increasing jobless rates. This year's June level matches the jobless rate in June 2010, although it is lower than the 7.9 percent rate in January.

"We know that layoffs are beginning again," said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the Island's largest business group. "What remains to be seen is what happens in the job market. If we can resume job generation, even a fairly modest pace, we'll be able to hold the line on unemployment."

If not, she said joblessness could climb to the 7.5-percent range. She said the job market is particularly punishing for the long-term unemployed -- those people out of work more than 27 weeks -- many of whom are Baby Boomers.

"The feeling among employers is that your skills atrophy the longer you are out of work," she said.

Last week, the department released employment numbers showing that the Long Island economy had 6,800 fewer jobs in June, the biggest year-over-year decline in 16 months.

Michael Crowell, senior economist in the department's Hicksville office, said that what's more noteworthy is that the Island is 40,000 jobs below the employment numbers for June 2007, the month before prolonged sluggishness took root in the job market.

"That is significant," he said.

The Island is faring better than the nation, which has a 9.2 percent jobless rate, New York State, which has an 8 percent rate, and New York City, which has an 8.8 percent rate.

The number of employed workers on Long Island fell to 1.374 million in June from 1.395 million a year earlier.

Rockville Centre, with a 5.6 unemployment rate, is the only area on the Island with a level below 6 percent. Hempstead Village has the highest rate -- 9.4 percent.

The latest numbers are a stark reminder of how challenging the employment market remains.

Cedarhurst resident Marilyn Samorodin, 77, has decided to retire because she hasn't been able to find work after losing her job in December 2008 as an admissions coordinator at a nursing home.

Samorodin said she enjoys working and sent out hundreds of resumes. But she got very few replies, something she attributed, in part, to her age.

"I was hoping that I would be able to continue in some way or other in the field . . . and then decided that it was getting ridiculous," she said.

But some employers are still hiring. Joe Cahill, 30, who lost his creative-director job in January 2009, found a job in March as an art director for an e-commerce site based in Farmingdale.

The Hicksville resident said the job offer from his current employer was one of three he received, and he has continued to get some offers.

He said, "People are looking to spend money to get creative people."

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