An expansion of patient care options and strong construction activity on Long Island gave local employment a record-setting boost last month, state data released Thursday show.
The Long Island economy grew by 9,000 jobs in March from a year earlier, according to the state Labor Department. The total number of jobs on the Island rose to 1.33 million in March, the highest since the department began using its current employment tracking methodology in 1990.
In March 2018 the Island had 1.32 million jobs.
The health-care sector posted the biggest employment gains, with 13,100 more jobs year over year. A number of factors, including an expansion of ambulatory services, cancer care centers and a growing use of home health aides among the region's older population helped to lift employment, said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.
“As it’s been for many years now, health care really was the largest driver in March compared to a year ago,” Patel said. “Health care and social assistance really has been the region’s steadiest performer.”
The largest declines came from the professional and business services sector, which lost 8,800 jobs year over year.
The declines in the high-paying sector, which include legal services, accounting and payroll services, are "pretty widespread," Patel said. “We’re near record low levels of the unemployment rate, and the resulting tight labor market might be having an impact on job growth.”
Growth in the health sector contributed to employment growth in the construction sector, as health systems open new urgent care facilities and other outpatient facilities locally, she said.
Construction posted a gain of 5,100 jobs last month, representing a 6.5 percent increase over last year, making it the sector with the second highest gains in March.
Helping drive the demand for construction workers on the Island is the ongoing development of downtown revitalization projects near LIRR stations, such as the Ronkonkoma Hub, requiring the build-out of new multifamily residential complexes and mixed-use properties, Patel said.
Behind construction employment, the third highest gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector, which posted 3,000 more jobs in March. Hiring for restaurants and bars constituted most of the gains seen in the sector.
“That means that discretionary spending is strong,” said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group. "People are willing to spend on leisure and hospitality.”
Rizzo said the increase is indicative of an overall strong economy.
“Discretionary spending is strong when the economy is doing well," he said.
Overall, five of the Island’s nine private employment sectors covered by the department posted year-over-year job gains.
In contrast to the growth seen in health care, private education services — a category within the education and health services sector — lost 1,600 jobs last month, a trend that has been ongoing since 2017, Patel said.
“A big part of the change was some of the closures of schools like Briarcliffe, which brought down the numbers overall,” she said.
In 2015, Bethpage-based Briarcliffe College said it would close its two campuses and lay off its 294 employees by the end of 2018. The former college's Patchogue campus is now the site of Blue Point Brewing Co.'s newly opened headquarters.