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Long Island’s jobless rate above 4% for first time in 4 months

OlaShade Akinrele of Middle Island, right, inquires about

OlaShade Akinrele of Middle Island, right, inquires about job opportunities at the Town of Brookhaven's annual job fair June 6, 2017. Credit: Raychel Brightman

Long Island’s unemployment rate rose to 4.2 percent in June, pushing past 4 percent for the first time in four months, state data released Tuesday show. A year ago the rate stood at 4 percent.

Both the number of unemployed and employed residents rose. The Island had 63,500 unemployed residents in June, up 4,000 from a year earlier, the Labor Department said. And the number of employed increased by 6,300 to 1.45 million, the highest total for the month since 2008.

The increases in all the numbers, even the unemployment rate, reflect a healthy job market, local economists said.

“It’s possible that more people are re-entering the labor force because labor-market conditions on Long Island have been quite strong, and there are more job opportunities available,” said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.

The job seekers who re-entered the job market but didn’t find work were counted as unemployed, noted John A. Rizzo, a Stony Brook University professor and chief economist of the Long Island Association trade group. That would cause the jobless rate to climb.

In contrast, “discouraged workers,” or unemployed workers who have given up looking for a job because they don’t believe they can find one, are not counted as unemployed.

The higher June unemployment rate comes after the Labor Department last week reported a pickup in job growth for June. The Island had 21,500 more jobs last month, compared with June 2016, the highest monthly gain of this year’s second quarter.

On Long Island, Hempstead Village had the highest unemployment rate — 5.2 percent. Southampton Town had the lowest, at 3.7 percent.

Southampton’s unemployment rate reflects the seasonality of its job market. In January, it had the Island’s highest unemployment rate — 6.7 percent. The town’s labor market is increasingly dependent on the summer season, Patel said.

From 2010 to 2017 the average difference between the town’s jobless rates in January and June was nearly 4 percentage points, Patel said. That’s up sharply from an average difference of about 1.2 percentage points from 1990 to 2009, she said.

“It shows the importance of the summer season to Southampton’s economy,” she said.

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