The number of unemployed Long Island residents shrank to pre-recession levels in June for the second month in a row, state Labor Department data released Tuesday show. And other data in the June report indicate that the Island's overall job market has shifted into growth mode.
The Island had 66,900 unemployed residents in June, down 5,700 from a year earlier and the lowest for the month since June 2007, six months before the last recession began. Previously, the May report also showed an eight-year low in the number of unemployed for that month.
Last month's jobless rate dropped to 4.5 percent, also the lowest for the month since 2007. It was 4.9 percent a year earlier. Meanwhile, the number of employed jumped by 14,400 to a total of 1.42 million, the highest since June 2008.
The latest improvements came amid strong job growth. Last week the department said the Island had 18,400 more jobs last month, compared with a year earlier, the largest year-over-year gain since 2013.
"All of this points to continued strengthening of Long Island's labor market," said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the area's largest business group.
The strong signs of growth contrast sharply with the unevenness of the job market for most of 2014. As late as March, the number of Island residents with jobs declined, even as the unemployment rate fell.
Local economists speculated that the falling rate was due not to job growth but to people retiring or giving up looking for work because they didn't believe they could find any. Neither of those groups is included in the unemployment statistics.
For the past three months, however, the number of people employed has increased, said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the department's Hicksville office.
"This is definitely a trend," Patel said. "The labor force in general is increasing, and that increase is coming from a fairly large year-over-year increase in the number of Long Islanders who are employed."
Nassau's unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent from 4.7 percent a year earlier. Suffolk's fell to 4.6 percent from 5.1 percent. The department uses year-over-year comparisons because the data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal employment swings.
Around the Island, North Hempstead Town had the lowest jobless rate in June -- 4 percent. Hempstead Village's 5.3 percent was the highest.
Statewide, Nassau had the third-lowest rate, after Columbia County's 3.9 percent and Saratoga's 4.1 percent. Suffolk came in sixth, tied with six other counties.