Suffolk County Parks and Recreation representative Kellyanne Sullivan, left, talks...

Suffolk County Parks and Recreation representative Kellyanne Sullivan, left, talks with Brandon Dennis, 20, of Amityville, at a job fair at IBEW Local 25 in Hauppauge on May 16. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Long Island’s unemployment rate grew substantially in April compared to a year ago, the second month in a row the region has seen increased levels of jobless residents year-over-year, according to the most recent state figures.

The Island’s unemployment rate grew to 3.2% last month, up significantly from the 2.6% jobless rate reported in April 2023, according to state Labor Department data released Tuesday.

Increases in the unemployment rate are common, according to economists, and can even signal broader economic growth given certain factors. Data for April, however, shows a slowdown in the labor market like the pattern seen in the state’s March 2024 numbers.

“The picture was very similar to what we saw in March,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst for the state Labor Department’s Hicksville office.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The municipalities with the highest and lowest unemployment rates last month were the Town of Riverhead at 4%, and the Town of Oyster Bay at 2.8%, respectively.
  • The state’s unemployment rate was 3.9% last month, up from 3.6% in April 2024. Nationally, the jobless rate was 3.9%, up from 3.4% a year ago. 
  • Economists consider an unemployment rate below 4% to be full employment, meaning those who want a job should be able to find one.

In March, the Island’s unemployment rate moved up to 3.6% from 3.1% the same month a year earlier. In both cases, the Island’s number of employed residents and the total labor force fell while the number of unemployed residents grew.

The labor force refers to the total number of both employed Islanders and those out of work but actively job hunting.

While the jobless rate fell from March to April, month-to-month comparisons of unemployment rates and other economic data points are generally less reliable and more prone to seasonal effects than year-over-year comparisons.

“Compared to a year ago the number of employed residents fell by 18,400 with a little less than half of those moving into unemployment and the other half moving out of the labor force,” Patel said.

“The silver lining there is the unemployment rate has been under 4% for two years and the region has consistently been below the state and national averages,” she said.

Economists consider an unemployment rate below 4% to be full employment, meaning those who want a job should be able to find one.

The state’s unemployment rate was 3.9% last month, up from 3.6% in April 2023. Nationally, the jobless rate was 3.9%, up from 3.4% a year ago. 

Despite the increase, John A. Rizzo, economist and Stony Brook University professor, said the local report is in line with the Federal Reserve’s goal of bringing inflation down.

“The government has been trying to slow down the labor market to control inflation and this is a reflection of that,” Rizzo said. “The unemployment rate is still at full employment levels. From a macro perspective, this is not bad news.”

The Fed’s goal of using increased interest rates to rein in rising costs comes at the cost of higher interest rates on credit cards and mortgage rates, he said. But by not making borrowing more expensive, inflation becomes unwieldy.

“Everyone wants a rate cut including the Fed,” Rizzo said. “But they are waiting until they see more evidence that inflation is getting to where they want to be. The last thing they want is to have a rate cut and see more inflation.”

On the Island, the municipalities with the highest and lowest unemployment rates last month were the Town of Riverhead at 4%, and the Town of Oyster Bay at 2.8%, respectively.

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