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More than 175,000 LIers have filed jobless claims in the last 4 weeks

State employees help people who have lost their

State employees help people who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus on Thursday, March 19, 2020.  Credit: NYS Department of Labor

Almost 60,000 Long Islanders filed unemployment insurance claims last week as the coronavirus shutdown continued to spark an unprecedented wave of layoffs across the region and the nation.

In total, more than 175,000 Long Islanders have filed for jobless benefits in the past four weeks, joining 1.2 million New Yorkers and 22 million Americans who filed claims in the same period.
Across the state nearly 400,000 new claims were filed in the last week alone, according to New York State Department of Labor figures released Thursday.

To deal with the influx of claims, the Labor Department last week streamlined its online filing system, which is now open Monday through Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., according to its website.

While every region in the state is experiencing historic increases in jobless claims, Long Island has been particularly hard hit. For the third week in a row, the Island was the region with the largest percentage increase in claims.

On the Island, 59,526 residents filed for unemployment benefits in the week ended April 11, marking a 4,386% increase over the 1,327 claims that were filed the same week a year ago. During the week prior, Long Islanders filed 55,361 claims. 

“Long Island is having an unusually high jump in unemployment claims,” Gregory DeFreitas, senior labor economics professor at Hofstra University said Wednesday.

Although the New York City region has the highest number of filings – an expected outcome given its significantly larger working population – on a percentage growth basis, the Island tops the rest of the state. New York City reported a 3,516% jump in claims last week from the same period a year ago, putting it second to the Island in its growth percentage.

DeFreitas said it’s possible the makeup of Long Island's job market put it in a more precarious spot when non-essential businesses were ordered to close.

“We do have an above average vulnerability in some of the more affected industries,” he said. Industries like construction and manufacturing make up about 12% of the Island’s workforce, while those sectors make up 8% of jobs in the state.

Additionally, wholesale and retail trade jobs – with the exception of grocery and drug stores – make up a larger portion of jobs here than elsewhere in the state.

“If you subtract grocery stores and drug stores, retail trade makes up 14% of all jobs, which is above the statewide average of about 10%,” DeFreitas said. “Those people are mainly out of work.”

And while other parts of the state, like New York City, have a similar percentage of jobs in the hard-hit hospitality sector, the city also has a higher concentration of jobs in other industries to compensate, something the Island does not.

“Obviously, New York has more employment in hotels and restaurants, but Wall Street is still working,” DeFreitas said. “There’s a lot more finance jobs and high-tech jobs in the city than on Long Island.”

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