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Officials: Verizon strike contributed to low job count in May

Verizon workers protest outside a Verizon depot on

Verizon workers protest outside a Verizon depot on Corporate Drive as they strike on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Garden City. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Island’s job growth plunged in May, partly because of the 6 1⁄2-week strike by Verizon workers, state data released Thursday show.

The Long Island economy had 4,400 more jobs in May, compared with May 2015, the weakest year-over-year growth since 2014, Labor Department data show.

A 2,400 decline in the number of workers on payrolls in the information sector resulted mainly from the Verizon strike, the Labor Department said.

“It certainly was a weak report, although a lot of that weakness was temporary factors,” said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.

The depressed growth is expected to be reversed in next month’s report, since the striking Verizon employees returned to work on June 1,

Patel said.

Growth also slowed last month because the restaurant industry added fewer jobs, Patel said. Restaurants had 1,000 more jobs in May, compared with May 2015. That declined steeply from April’s 5,300 year-over-year job increase.

Monthly job growth at local restaurants presaged the slowdown. The number of jobs rose by just 1,100 from April to May, down from the average 3,400-job increase between those two months, Patel said.

The private-education and health-services sector added the most jobs, 7,800, compared with a year earlier, all in health care. The government sector was second, with 2,200 more jobs, mostly on stronger hiring at public schools.

The Island’s highest paying sector, financial activities, gained 1,000 jobs year over year, primarily because of increased employment in real estate and insurance.

Construction and manufacturing, also higher-wage sectors, gained 1,300 and 200 jobs, respectively.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector, which includes retail, posted the biggest losses — down 6,300 jobs year over year. Retail drove most of those losses, with a 5,600-job decline, as it was still shaking off the effects of a slower holiday hiring season, Patel said.

She said she expects the retail numbers to rise when the local data are revised at the end of the year, because more detailed employer tax data show a stronger holiday hiring season than originally reported.

The private and public sectors added an equal number of jobs — 2,200 each. The Island had a total of 1.324 million jobs in May, compared with 1.320 million in May of last year.

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

Long Island’s job market grew 0.3 percent in May year over year, compared with 0.9 percent for the state, 1.7 percent for the nation and 2 percent for New York City, all seasonally unadjusted figures.

The Labor Department will release the Island’s May unemployment rate on Tuesday. April’s jobless rate fell to 3.9 percent, the lowest for the month since 2007. In April 2015, it stood at 4.4 percent.

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