Hiring in the Long Island leisure and hospitality industry was up 5 percent from January 2009 to January 2010. That's an addition of 4,300 jobs, the largest of any sector.
"The numbers are pretty strong," said Gary Huth, the State Labor Department's principal economist for Long Island, though he said he's not ready to declare a job growth turnaround quite yet.
The largest jump in hiring - 29.6 percent - came in the amusement and recreation area, which includes organizations ranging from tennis clubs and museums to bowling centers and video arcades.
Huth said he can't point to any major hiring engines within that sector; more likely it was a "cumulative effect," with a small number of hires spread over many organizations.
One possible driver: people cutting back on high-ticket trips and amusements and looking to play closer to home, he said. Also, many baby boomers, those still employed whose kids are grown, have more time and discretionary money for close-to-home amusements.
Bryan DeLuca, general manager of Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead, said that last year, "we had an increase in attendance, based on people staying closer to home." An expansion this year is likely to mean more than 100 construction jobs and about 100 full- and part-time operations hires this summer.