The Labor Department releases unemployment data this week. Above, a...

The Labor Department releases unemployment data this week. Above, a job fair at Nassau Community College. Credit: Anthony DelMundo

Long Island’s unemployment rate fell 0.7 percentage points to 3.5 percent in March, year over year, the lowest jobless rate the Island has seen for the month since 2001, preliminary state Labor Department data released Tuesday show.

The region’s unemployment rate was 4.2 percent in March 2018.

“Overall, March’s unemployment report was very good for the region,” said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office. “The unemployment rate was at its lowest since 2001, and both labor force and employment growth in the region has accelerated to record highs for the month of March.”

Nassau County posted the lowest jobless rate of the state’s 62 counties, dropping 0.6 percentage points to an unemployment rate of 3.3 percent in March, a record low for the month going back to 2001, according to state data.

“Both its highly educated population as well as help from New York City’s strong job market helped Nassau County reach near-record-low levels,” Patel said. 

The jobless rate in Suffolk fell by 0.7 percentage points last month to 3.7 percent.

The data on the unemployment rate were based on a census survey of Long Island residents, regardless of where they work.

While the continued year-over-year declines in the jobless rate point to a strong job market, it can become “more and more difficult for employers to find the right matches” when it comes to recruitment, said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group.

“When unemployment is low, it means that there are a lot of jobs available,” Rizzo said. “Job turnover is higher too, because people have more opportunities.”

And while lower rates generally lead to increases in wages and benefits, increases in compensation have “been lagging for a while,” he said. “Only recently have we seen some acceleration.”

Patel added that while low unemployment rates were good for the region, “the historically tight labor market, combined with an aging workforce, could eventually constrain job growth.”

Among the state's metro areas, Long Island tied with the Dutchess-Putnam region for the second lowest unemployment rates in the state. Only Ithaca posted a lower rate, with a 3.4 percent.

On Long Island, the village of Rockville Centre posted the lowest unemployment rate of any local municipality at 2.8 percent. Southampton Town’s 5.3 percent rate was the highest on the Island.

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