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Long Island's unemployment rate drops to 4.5 percent

Chunyee Miot and Clem Peterson of the World

Chunyee Miot and Clem Peterson of the World Financial Group speak with a job seeker on Sept. 21, 2015, during the Long Island Career Fair at the Melville Marriott Long Island. Credit: Steve Pfost

Long Island's unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent in August, the lowest rate for the month in eight years, state Labor Department data released Tuesday show.

The rate fell from 5.1 percent in August 2014. The Island continues to inch toward the traditional economic definition of full employment, which is under 4 percent.

The number of unemployed residents fell to 66,600, down 7,700 from a year earlier, also an eight-year low for August. Meanwhile, the number of employed residents rose to 1.42 million, up 25,700, a seven-year high for the month.

The Labor Department uses year-over-year comparisons because local data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.

The unemployment rate drop came amid strong job growth. Last week, in a report focused on the number of local jobs rather than the unemployment rate, the department said the Island had 20,500 more jobs in August, compared with a year earlier, the fastest pace for any month since 2013.

The report was a solid departure from the labor reports during most of 2014 and early 2015, when the unemployment rate declined despite shrinking employment. Rather than reflecting job growth, those unemployment rate declines were caused by people dropping out of the workforce, such as retirees or "discouraged workers" -- a term for those who stopped looking for work because they didn't believe they could find any, said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the Labor Department's Hicksville office. Retirees and discouraged workers aren't counted in unemployment statistics.

But the August report showed an employment market strong enough to entice some of the discouraged workers back.

"This report shows a more robust labor market picture here on Long Island, with a labor force that is increasing, and, most importantly, re-entrants are finding work," Patel said.

The August jobless rate is the latest in a string of strong monthly reports since the spring. For instance, in April, the unemployment rate on the Island was 4.4 percent.

In August, Nassau's jobless rate dropped to 4.3 percent, from 4.8 percent a year earlier. Suffolk's declined to 4.7 percent, from 5.3 percent.

Among the Island's incorporated areas, Babylon Town had the highest unemployment rate, 5.3 percent. Rockville Centre, North Hempstead and Southampton towns tied for the lowest rate -- 3.8 percent.

Around the state, Columbia County's 3.6 percent unemployment rate was the lowest. And Bronx County's 7.3 percent was the highest.

New York State's jobless rate was 5 percent last month, while the nation's was 5.2 percent, based onunadjusted data as the local numbers are.

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