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'We bottomed out,' economist says, as LI jobless claims drop again

Employees answer calls from New York residents seeking

Employees answer calls from New York residents seeking jobless benefits at a state Department of Labor call center in Albany. Credit: NYS Department of Labor

Last week, 10,870 Long Islanders filed jobless claims, down from the 11,740 claims that were filed one week prior, according to state data released Thursday.

In total, more than 383,000 Long Islanders have filed jobless claims over the 14 weeks of the coronavirus shutdown. New Yorkers statewide have filed more than 2.8 million unemployment claims during the crisis.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group, said he is hopeful that the number of new jobless claims will continue to decline as businesses get back to work as part of the Island’s phased reopening.

“We bottomed out,” Rizzo said. “We’ve seen the worst and hopefully in Phase 3, I think we’ll improve from here.”  

The Island hit its record peak of 59,526 new unemployment claims the week ended April 11.

The region entered Phase 3 Wednesday, which allows for restaurants to offer indoor dining at up to 50% of normal capacity. Other food service firms and personal care businesses including nail salons and spas were also permitted to reopen.

Long Island is expected to enter Phase 4 on July 8, which will include higher education, museums and historic sites. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said this week that malls, gyms and movie theaters, which were expected to be included in Phase 4, will remain shuttered pending further study.

Rizzo said the growing number of COVID-19 cases in other states like Texas, Florida and Arizona could potentially hurt the Island’s economy if supply chains are impacted in other state economies.  

“State economies are interdependent,” he said. “It’s important that other states get on the ball and start taking this more seriously.”

The LIA economist also said the state’s recently enacted joint travel advisory with New Jersey and Connecticut acts as a “necessary” disincentive to travel, to help protect the progress the tristate region has made in combating COVID-19

This week, the three states agreed that they would require visitors from states with high infection rates to quarantine for 14 days when traveling to the region.

Richard Vogel, dean of the school of business and professor of economics at Farmingdale State College, said the travel advisory would likely have a minimal negative impact on the state’s economy, particularly the Island’s tourism sector.

“I don't think it’s going to have too many serious effects at this point in time,” Vogel said. “Travel is still fairly muted” across the country, he said.

Even though the advisory may be “curtailing visitors from Florida, or Arizona, or Texas, or somewhere,” it’s more important to prevent spikes in new cases and a potential second shutdown, Vogel said.

“We are at a very important turning point. Long Island has hit Phase 3 and New York City is in Phase 2,” he said. “It’s still going to be a long road to recovery.”

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