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Long Island's August unemployment rate inches up to 4.4%

Participants during a job fair at the Launchpad

Participants during a job fair at the Launchpad headquarters in Huntington on July 25, 2017. Credit: Johnny Milano

Long Island’s unemployment rate inched up to 4.4 percent in August, from 4.2 percent in August 2016, state data released Tuesday show.

The number of unemployed residents rose by 3,800 to 66,400. At the same time, the number of employed Long Islanders climbed by 4,500 to 1.43 million.

Given the Island’s continued low unemployment, the rise in the number of jobless residents amid a growing labor force likely indicates that more discouraged workers have restarted their job search, local economists said. Those workers are counted as unemployed once they start looking for a job again.

“The region’s labor market was robust enough to draw more residents off the sidelines and into the work force,” said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.

Another local economist agreed.

“It just means that more people are entering the market in search of a job because they think their job prospects are better,” said John A. Rizzo, a Stony Brook University economics professor and chief economist for the Long Island Association business group. “If there are more people entering the labor force in search of jobs, that will make the unemployment rate tick up.”

The rise in the unemployment rate comes after the Labor Department last week reported the slowest job growth on the Island since 2010. The Island had 6,600 more jobs in August, compared with a year earlier.

That number was down from June’s year-over-year growth rate of 20,500 jobs and July’s 13,800.

But the latest slowdown wasn’t necessarily bad news. With the Island’s record number of jobs, a slower pace wasn’t surprising, Rizzo has said.

The villages of Hempstead and Lindenhurst had the highest jobless rate — 5.3 percent. Long Beach’s 3.7 percent was the lowest.

Across the state, Columbia County had the lowest rate, 3.6 percent. Nassau’s 4.2 percent ranked it seventh and Suffolk ranked eleventh, with 4.6 percent.

The Island’s overall rate of 4.4 percent compares with the state’s 4.9 percent and the nation’s 4.5 percent, on the same seasonally unadjusted basis.

The department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren’t adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations.

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