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Retail layoffs temper LI job growth in August

Steve Berend, of West Babylon, and Aimee Bianco,

Steve Berend, of West Babylon, and Aimee Bianco, of Babylon, speak with Natella Calliste from Westport Corp. about jobs on Sept. 12, 2016, during the Suffolk County job fair held at the West Babylon Public Library. Credit: Veronique Louis

Weakness in the retail sector has slowed Long Island’s job growth, state data released Thursday show.

The Island had 15,100 more jobs in August compared with the same month in 2015, the Labor Department said. That annualized growth rate fell from the 16,600 year-over-year job increase in July.

The private-education and health services sector led August employment growth with 9,000 more jobs. Most of the growth was in health care, which added 8,900 of the jobs to education’s 100.

Construction had the second-highest number of jobs — 6,600. That sector, one of the Island’s highest-paying, has been posting strong growth for several years, indicating greater strength in the local economy, said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.

“That always points to better economic activity across the region,” Patel said. “Construction is basically an investment in the region.”

But the continuing growth could soon translate into labor shortages in the sector, which in turn could hamper employment expansion, she said.

“It’s growing, and it’s an aging industry,” Patel said.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector, which encompasses retail, posted the biggest decline — down 6,200 jobs, mostly because of retail layoffs. Retail alone shrank by 6,800 jobs year over year.

“The private sector is still growing but the pace of growth has been slowing for a couple of months, and that is mainly due to weakness in the retail sector,” Patel said.

The latest data suggest that retail’s prospects may not improve in the near term. The sector posted a 3,100-job decline between July and August — compared with an average gain of 100 for that time period, Patel said.

The private sector added 15,000 jobs in August and government 100. The government sector received its biggest boost from hiring at public schools.

Overall the Island had 1.33 million jobs in August, up from 1.32 million a year earlier.

The Island’s 1.1 percent increase in August job growth compared with 2.3 percent for New York City, 1.4 percent for New York State and 1.7 percent for the nation, all on a seasonally unadjusted basis.

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

New York City’s job growth was the highest in the state, followed by 2.2 percent in both the Dutchess-Putnam and Kingston metro areas.

The Labor Department will release the Island’s August unemployment rate on Tuesday. The jobless rate fell to 4.2 percent in July, from 4.8 percent a year earlier.


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