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Jobless rate rises on LI in November as more join job hunt

The local unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent as more job seekers entered the market without immediately finding work.

Shana Benoit will start a new job as

Shana Benoit will start a new job as an administrative assistant at a wealth management firm on Long Island on Jan. 2. She recently moved back to Queens after living in Puerto Rico for more than three years. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Long Island’s unemployment rate rose last month to 4.4 percent, an increase of half a percentage point from 3.9 percent a year earlier, as more job searchers entered the market without immediately finding work.

Nassau and Suffolk counties’ labor force — a measure that includes those employed or looking for work — increased 0.6 percent in November compared to the same month in 2016, to 1.47 million people, according data the New York State Department of Labor released Wednesday.

However, within that population, the number of unemployed people looking for work last month increased by 7,500 from a year earlier, or 13 percent, to 65,100. The department focuses on year-over-year comparisons because the data aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations in employment.

“More people on the year-to-year basis have re-entered the labor market and all those people have not found jobs yet, and that’s what’s caused the increase in the unemployment rate,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the department’s Hicksville location.

West Hempstead resident Lauralyn Goldner, 59, lost her job in the summer, when she was laid off as a senior administrative assistant for an ATM maker in Garden City.

“I went in and packed up 27 years of memories,” said Goldner, who said she has been aggressively seeking employment before the medical coverage in her severance ends in January.

Job seekers on Long Island stand a good chance finding employment in the fields of health care, accounting and finance, and technology, said Linda Langer, vice president of Access Staffing, an employment agency based in Melville.

“Health care is definitely one of the fastest-growing industries and . . . an applicant-driven market right now,” she said.

Job titles with little growth, however, include executive and administrative assistants and other office support personnel, she said.

Janine Chinitz, 29, got a job interview through Access Staffing in September with a Westbury arbitration and mediation company. She began working there full-time as a strategic initiative associate the next month, she said. She had been an office assistant at a set design company and a musical performer before she and her husband relocated from Manhattan to Port Jefferson Station in February.

“I wasn’t looking that long (for a job) but I was looking furiously. It was like a full-time job basically,” Chinitz said.

Despite the rise in the unemployment rate, Long Island has a tight labor market, said Rob Basso, president and founder of Advantage Payroll Services, a Plainview-based company that provides services for more than 3,000 employers.

“It’s tougher for employers to get the right folks but when you’re qualified properly as an employee, you have a lot of leverage in the marketplace,” he said.

Small businesses have to offer strong benefits packages, such as those that include 401(k) plans and health insurance, to compete with large companies for qualified employees, he said.

Queens resident Shana Benoit, 41, will earn $55,000 a year and receive health and dental insurance, shorter work hours on Fridays in the summer, gym membership, and 401(k) participation after one year in her new job as an administrative assistant in New Hyde Park.

She begins the job at a wealth management firm Tuesday, after relocating back to Queens from Puerto Rico in November following Hurricane Maria.

She said the job was appealing because of its non-monetary benefits.

“Hopefully, it’s a good work environment,” she said. “That’s mostly what I’m looking for, and that they understand that work-life balance situation.

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