The Long Island job market ended 2016 with its strongest growth in nine months, state Labor Department data released Thursday show.
The Island had 17,300 more jobs in December, compared with December 2015, the biggest jump since March 2016’s year-over-year growth of 25,000 jobs.
The private-education and health services sector, with 10,200 more jobs, led jobs gains, as it did all last year. The majority of the gains in the latest report were in health care, which added 9,100 jobs. Though the sector has some higher-paying jobs, the fastest growing are at the lower end of the wage spectrum, such as home-health aide.
The manufacturing sector, one of the Island’s highest-paying, shrank the most, with a 1,200-job loss. December marked the second consecutive month the sector had year-over-year losses of 1,200.
Retail, which is part of the trade, transportation and utilities sector, rebounded at year-end after months of losses. The subsector gained 2,700 jobs.
The category has picked up as some of the workers who lost jobs because the Waldbaum’s and Pathmark supermarkets shut down were hired by other chains that bought some of the sites, said James Brown, principal economist, who is based in the department’s Brooklyn office.
“As we have gone through the year, a number of those sites have been repurposed,” he said.
On a month-to-month basis, the administrative and support-services sector, an indicator of the health of local businesses, suffered an unusually large month-to-month decline, down 3,600 jobs, but up 400 jobs for the year. The sector includes jobs associated with business-to-business activity, such as placing temp workers and security guards.
“This is something we keep an eye on,” said Brown, who stressed that a month’s worth of data doesn’t constitute a trend.
Construction, which gained 1,600 jobs year over year, also had an unusually large seasonal decline between November and December, down 3,500 jobs.
“Maybe that’s a harbinger of some weakness in real estate,” said John A. Rizzo, chief economist at the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group.
Overall, the expanding job market has plenty of opportunities, especially for skilled workers, one jobs expert said.
Cliff Weinstein, director of permanent placement in accounting and finance in Uniondale and Hauppauge for the staffing company Robert Half, said that despite the steep one-month decline in the report, he’s seen a strong demand for employees from the real-estate and health-care industries and from businesses that provide services to other businesses such as consulting, accounting, audit and tax services.
In fact, he said that for skilled workers, the local job market is becoming a candidate’s market again, with jobs going unfilled if the salaries aren’t attractive.
“Five years ago we saw candidates just happy to get a job at a reasonable salary,” Weinstein said.
All told, the Island ended the year with 1.34 million jobs, the highest number for December since 1990, when the department began using its current methodology.