Unemployment filings on Long Island fell sharply by 687 claims last week, marking the second big drop in the number of residents seeking jobless aid in the last month.
During the week ended Oct. 31, Nassau and Suffolk residents filed 3,945 unemployment claims, a new low since the economic hardship of the pandemic began, the state Labor Department reported Thursday. Claims are down 14.8% from the week prior, when jobless filings hit 4,632.
Despite the recent drops, claims on the Island remain historically high. During the same week in 2019, the Island reported 1,423 jobless claims.
In April, at the height of the health crisis and its related business closures, the region hit more than 59,000 jobless claims in a single week.
While claims have fallen, it may not be a sign that the economy is sprinting toward a robust recovery, said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group.
Rizzo said the decline in jobless claims may have more to do with the fact that companies that had to lay off workers either closed up entirely or have already let go of all the employees they could afford to.
"The firms that were going to lay off workers … the vast majority of those have already done so," Rizzo said. "There’s a bigger mix now of firms that are well capitalized who can see this thing through.
"Unfortunately, I think the layoffs disproportionately fell on smaller businesses since they tend to be less capitalized and have less access to borrowing," he said.
Adding to the woes of the economy, he said, is the uncertainty of when a stimulus package for small businesses and the unemployed is likely to come through. That, too, has been made even more uncertain by this year’s protracted presidential election.
As the timing for a stimulus deal is unclear, the Island’s job market remains challenging for local job seekers, including Sophia Hepheastou, an attorney who lost her job in April.
"I’ve had to make significant cuts in the way I spend and shift goals in building my life," said Hepheastou of Manhasset Hills.
"All discretionary spending has for the most part been cut out — eating out and shopping for nonessentials are long gone," she said. "I’m fortunate to have savings and living off that until I can find a new role."
Hepheastou, who specializes in bankruptcy law, said she’s applied for "at least 100 jobs" and that competition for a smaller pool of positions has been stiff.
"Finding new employment is difficult normally, but with so many layoffs and the pool of people looking for work flooding the market, it is an uphill battle," she said.