Long Island’s economy reported lackluster job growth in December, led largely by gains in the leisure and hospitality sector. Jobs there outpaced growth in health care, usually the region’s biggest job creator, state data released Thursday show.
The Island’s job market had 7,600 more jobs in December, up only 0.6% over the same month in 2018, according to state Labor Department data. In November, the region saw a job gain of 11,300 jobs over the same month in 2018.
Four of the Island’s nine job sectors tracked by the state reported gains in the last month of 2019, with leisure and hospitality leading the gains.
Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the Labor Department’s Hicksville office, said that a contributing factor in December’s “moderate” job growth could be employer’s inability to find candidates to fill positions, especially in sectors like health care.
“Slow labor force growth is eventually going to dampen job growth,” Patel said.
Leisure and hospitality added 4,900 jobs in December 2019 over December 2018, the department said. Health care added 2,900 jobs over 2018. Construction saw an increase of 2,100 jobs over December 2018, and manufacturing saw an increase of 400 jobs over the same period.
Patel said that the weaker performance of the health care sector last month may have more to do with the supply of workers than a slow down in hiring efforts.
“We’ve had record breaking year-over-year job growth almost the entire year," she said of health care's status as the Island's biggest job creator. "Part of me wants to say that every hospital and ambulatory care center is hiring, but they can’t find enough people to fill positions ... overall, that’s happening across nearly every sector on Long Island.”
John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group, agreed that health care's smaller job increase was more indicative of the effects of a tight labor market.
"When you have an economy whose unemployment rate has been less than what some economists call full employment, it’s going to be hard to push beyond that,” Rizzo said.
While health care has been the leader in job creation over the past year, leisure hiring points to broader strength in the overall economy.
"The particularly strong growth in leisure and hospitality hiring underlines a strong economy," he said. "Leisure and hospitality is discretionary spending. If firms are investing heavily in hiring in that area that shows that they have confidence in the strength of the economy.”