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LI's jobless rate rises for third time this year, to 4.6% in March 

Stony Brook University hosted a job fair at

Stony Brook University hosted a job fair at the Student Activities Center in February.  Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Long Island's unemployment rate rose to 4.6 percent in March, from 4.2 percent  in March 2017, state data released Tuesday show.

So far this year, the jobless rate has risen every month when compared with a year earlier.

The number of employed residents fell by 22,400 to 1.4 million, the Labor Department numbers showed. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed Long Islanders rose by 3,900 to 66,800. 

Though the data suggest a "deterioration" in the employment market, the numbers could reflect a shortage of qualified workers, said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office. That shortage, coupled with a rising number of baby boomer retirees, may have left employers scrambling to find workers, she said.

"Anecdotally, companies across a variety of sectors are hiring and have been reporting having trouble finding qualified workers,” Patel said. "The aging of the region’s workforce may be putting some downward pressure on the labor force,” she said.

A different set of data, released by the department last week, showed that the Island had 17,300 more jobs last month than it had a year earlier. That followed a February report showing a 16,300-job  year-over-year increase.   

The job numbers from last week were based on a survey of Long Island businesses. Today’s data on the unemployment rate are derived from a census household survey of Island residents, regardless of where they work.  

Also weighing on Long Island's job market could be slower population growth and fewer immigrants, both of which make it harder for local companies to fill jobs, said Gregory DeFreitas, an economics professor who heads Hofstra University's labor studies program. And New York City's stronger job market may be more competitive than Long Island's, he said.

 "We are not getting enough job growth on Long Island to attract more people into the Long Island labor force," he said.

But the Island's job market could get a bump from the Trump Adminstration tax cuts as more people see lower tax withholdings and increased take-home pay, he said.

That higher pay could lead to more consumer buying, which, in turn, could generate more jobs, he said. 

On Long Island, Southampton Town’s 7 percent jobless rate was the highest, and is generally pushed up by seasonal factors this time of year. Oyster Bay Town and the Village of Rockville Centre had the lowest — 3.8 percent.

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

The Island's 4.6 percent jobless rate compares with for the state's 4.8 percent and the nation's 4.1 percent in the same seasonally unadjusted period. 

Around the state, Nassau's 4.2 percent ranked it the third-lowest rate. Suffolk, with 4.9 percent, ranked 10th. New York and Queens Counties tied for first, with 3.7 percent.  

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