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Long Island unemployment rate drops to 4.5 percent

U.S. employers added a solid 223,000 jobs in

U.S. employers added a solid 223,000 jobs in June, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent, a seven-year low. However, the rate fell mostly because many people out of work gave up on their job searches and were no longer counted as unemployed. Credit: Getty Images

Long Island's unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent in May, the lowest for the month since 2007, state Labor Department data released Tuesday show. In May 2014 the rate was 4.9 percent.

Significantly, a greater number of Long Island residents found jobs last month, making it two months in a row that the ranks of the employed here have expanded.

For five months, both the Island's jobless rate and the number of employed declined, suggesting that the rate's drop resulted not from employment growth but from increased numbers of people who stopped looking for work because they didn't believe they could find any. Those so-called discouraged workers aren't included in the unemployment data, so as their numbers swell, the unemployment rate declines.

The year-over-year statistics for April reversed that trend, with a greater number of employed residents. May extended that positive economic development.

"It was a good report overall," said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office. "I am cautiously optimistic about what is going on in the job market."

The Island had 1.403 million employed residents in May, up 19,800 from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed Long Islanders dropped to 65,800, down 5,200. The department uses year-over-year comparisons because the data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist of the Long Island Association business group, noted that the number of employed residents is the highest for May since 2008. "This is pretty solid evidence that the labor market is strengthening," he said.

The improvements came amid stronger job growth. The department's employment report released last week showed that the Long Island job market, powered by the construction sector, had 14,100 more jobs in May than the year before, the fastest growth since February.

"Finally, the unemployment numbers seem to be catching up with what is happening with the jobs numbers," Patel said.

The villages of Freeport, Hempstead, Lindenhurst and Babylon Town had the highest jobless rates, at 5.1 percent. North Hempstead Town's 4 percent was the lowest.

The state and national rates were both 5.3 percent last month, on the same seasonally unadjusted basis as the local numbers.

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