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Long Island's unemployment rate inches up to 4.9% for January

Guernie Joseph, 23, left, and Cathy Lindor, 24,

Guernie Joseph, 23, left, and Cathy Lindor, 24, both of Westbury, look over their resumes during the Long Island Career Fair at the Melville Marriott Feb. 15, 2018. Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Island’s unemployment rate inched up to 4.9 percent in January from 4.7  percent in January 2017, state data released Tuesday show.

The number of unemployed residents rose to 72,400, up 3,200 from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the number of employed fell by 1,000 to 1.4 million. 

Last week, Labor Department data showed continued slow growth in the local job market.  Long Island had 7,600 more jobs in January, compared with January 2017. 

The latest increase in the jobless rate continued a pattern set in 2017, when the unemployment rates rose year over year in nine months, newly revised state Labor Department data show.

Two local economist said the rising unemployment rates were not a cause for worry for now. The average 4.4 percent unemployment rate for all of 2017 was higher than 2016's average 4.1 percent, yet employment in 2017 "rose noticeably" relative to the preceding year, said John A. Rizzo, economics professor at Stony Brook University and chief economist of the Long Island Association trade group.   

"So I would say that, despite the slight uptick in the unemployment rate in 2017, compared to 2016, the labor market was stronger in 2017," he said.

This year could follow the same pattern of rising employment, but a trend is uncertain so early into the year, Rizzo said. 

"It is too soon to tell whether this pattern will be repeated in 2018," he said. "But the number of persons employed in January is still quite high, which is a positive sign."

Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office, said she didn't think the rate increase was "signaling any major shifts."

In fact, she said, "The overall trend is that employment is rising,"

The January uptick in the jobless rate and the number of unemployed could indicate that more discouraged workers, or those who wanted jobs but had stopped looking, for work resumed their job search, Patel said. Those workers are added to the unemployment rolls when they start looking again for work.

 "Better labor market conditions are compelling people to re-enter the labor force, although not all will find jobs immediately," Patel said. 

On the Island, the City of Long Beach had the lowest jobless rate — 4 percent. Hempstead Village and Southampton Town had the highest, both at 7.3 percent.

Southampton's higher unemployment rate this time of year is generally due to seasonal factors. 

Nassau's 4.5 percent jobless rate was the third lowest among counties in the state. Suffolk ranked 10th. Queen had the lowest rate — 4 percent.

Rating the Island

Long Island's highest and lowest unemployment rates in January


Long Beach City 4 percent

Oyster Bay Town 4.1 percent

North Hempstead Town 4.2 percent

Smithtown Town 4.2 percent


Hempstead Village 7.3 percent

Southampton Town 7.3 percent

Riverhead Town 6.9 percent

Freeport Village    6 percent 

Source: New York State Labor Department

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