The number of new unemployment claims on Long Island fell last week to its lowest level since April, state data released Thursday shows.
Long Islanders filed 8,779 new jobless claims in the week ended July 25, down from 9,600 the week before. It was the first time claims have been below 9,000 since the worst of the pandemic began.
The Island hit an all-time high of over 59,000 claims during a week in early April.
“It’s consistent with being able to open into Phase 4,” said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group. “The economy is reopening and so far, so good. The coronavirus still seems to be under control.”
While the overall claims remain far above historic levels — the same week in 2019 saw only 1,338 claims — Rizzo said the gradually shrinking number of new claims “reaffirms that this is the right way to reopen the economy.”
Last month, more than 224,000 Long Islanders — 106,300 in Nassau and 117,900 in Suffolk — were beneficiaries of regular unemployment benefits, receiving more than $354.9 million in jobless aid, according to latest Labor Department data.
The total benefit data does not include recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that extends unemployment benefits to those normally not eligible, such as gig workers and the self-employed, or the extra $600 enhancement to jobless benefits that the unemployed had been receiving weekly.
That extra $600 in aid is set to expire Friday unless extended by Congress.
Jenny Jorge, president of the Freeport Chamber of Commerce, said the $600 payments are hurting struggling businesses in the village, where unemployment last month was among the highest on Long Island, at 16.4%, compared to the Island's overall rate of 12.9%.
“The biggest struggle we’re seeing right now is that it’s become consistently more difficult for us to actually get employees,” said Jorge.
She said that while the chamber has not seen a wave of permanently shuttered businesses, some have struggled to bring back formerly furloughed workers and attract new workers who have been receiving the enhanced benefit.
“Whatever businesses are open need employees,” she said. “But it’s very difficult to hire and bring employees in when they’re making more on unemployment than when they come into work.”