Long Island had 7,500 more jobs this July than the...

Long Island had 7,500 more jobs this July than the year before, one of the smallest increases so far this year, new data from the State Labor Department shows. (Aug. 15, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

The pace of hiring on Long Island remained slow in July, the latest State Labor Department data show.

The Island had 7,500 more jobs last month than a year earlier, one of the smallest increases this year, according to data released Thursday. In the first three months of the year, the Island averaged 19,800 more jobs, compared with a year ago. The local economy now has 1.254 million jobs, up from 1.246 million the same time last year.

The construction sector was the biggest drag on the job market, down 5,100 jobs. The category continues to reflect the sluggish housing market.

"The only sector holding back the economy is construction right now," said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office.

By contrast, the professional and business-services sector showed the most growth, up 7,100. The category, one of the Island's highest paying, has now regained all the jobs it lost during the recession and has a record 170,400 jobs, the department said.

Pearl Kamer, chief economist of the Long Island Association, said of the sector's strong showing, "That alone would make me optimistic that we are on our way to a recovery, albeit a slow one."

The sector is keeping the staffing company Adecco in Melville busier. In the past several weeks companies have increased their requests for administrative assistants and customer-service reps and have taken on more of them as permanent hires, said Anthony Zarb, Adecco senior branch manager for Garden City and Melville.

"A lot of these companies just stayed lean, but now that the economy is beginning to pick up steam, [they] have to backfill these . . . positions so that they can meet the growth and demand of the expanding economy," he said.

The private education and health services category, the only sector that gained jobs through the recession, had the second-highest employment -- 5,900 jobs.

For Elexius Robles, 30, of East Islip, health care was her ticket to re-employment after she lost her job as a claims adjuster on Independence Day last year. With help from the Suffolk County Department of Labor, she was able to enroll in a Hunter Business School medical assistant program. She finished on July 17 and now works at the Huntington Medical Group in Huntington Station.

"Without the help of Suffolk, I feel like I wouldn't know where to go," Robles said. "I am happy where I am."

The State Labor Department will release the July unemployment rate on Tuesday. The June jobless rate spiked to 7.7 percent, from 7 percent from a year earlier.

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