Inflation and a hot job market may be drawing more...

Inflation and a hot job market may be drawing more Long Islanders back to the workforce, an economist said.  Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The number of employed Long Islanders hit a record high last month, new state data shows.

In June, the Island had more than 1.5 million employed residents, up from 1.43 million a year ago.  That was the highest number for any month since 1990, when such data began being collected, the state Labor Department reported Tuesday.

 The Island’s unemployment rate continues to hover near record lows.  The rate was 2.9% last month,  0.2 percentage points above the record low 2.7% reported in April and May.  A year ago, the rate stood at 4.9%.

“The labor market remains strong for workers on Long Island,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst with the Labor Department’s Hicksville office.

The hot labor market is drawing in workers who may have stayed out of the labor force, Patel said. She credits higher pay, more active recruitment from employers, more flexible scheduling and work-from-home options.

At the same time, she said that inflation may be playing a role, especially for newly retired Islanders on fixed incomes.

“Some might be returning to work out of necessity,” Patel said. “They may be feeling the pressure to go back to work with high inflation taking a bigger chunk out of their savings cushion.”

“Long Island is fundamentally strong, but there are external forces that are headwinds,” said John Rizzo, economist and Stony Brook University professor.

Pointing to rising consumer costs and the war in Ukraine, Rizzo said it's uncertain how the Island's strong labor market will be impacted in the months ahead. 

“We can’t control the rate of inflation, we can’t control what’s happening geopolitically," he said. "That creates uncertainty.”

The Town of North Hempstead and the Town of Southampton had the lowest unemployment rates on the Island, tied at 2.6%.  The Village of Hempstead had the highest rate,  at 3.7%.

The jobless rate in New York City was 6.1% last month, down from 10.6% in June 2021. The state’s rate was 4.4%, down from 7.5% a year ago.

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