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Unemployment rises on LI in August, bucking a downward trend

Bob DelPrete, right, a recruiting assistant for the

Bob DelPrete, right, a recruiting assistant for the U.S. Census Bureau, speaks with a person attending a job in East Hampton in April. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Long Island’s unemployment rate rose year-over-year for the first time since 2017, to 3.9% last month, up 0.2 percentage points from the same month last year, state Labor Department data released Tuesday shows.

The Island’s unemployment rate was 3.7% in August 2018.

While the increase bucks the recent decreases in the jobless rate, Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the Labor Department’s Hicksville office, said it’s too early to say whether the increase is indicative of a trend. 

“If you’re looking at this combined with our job growth numbers, the labor market still appears to be on firm footing,” Patel said. Contributing to the rate’s increase, she said, is a larger portion of Island residents leaving the workforce permanently. 

“Over the past year or so, we’ve definitely had a slowdown in the growth of the labor force,” Patel said. “There are several factors that could lead to the decline in the labor force out here. One, of course, is the aging population."

The unemployment rate for August is the highest it’s been since 2017. By comparison, the highest unemployment rate for the month of August was reported in 1992, when local unemployment hit 8%.

Nassau County’s jobless rate increased 0.2 percentage points over a year ago, to 3.7%. In Suffolk, the unemployment rate hit 4 percent, also an increase of 0.2 percentage points.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, a regional business group, said while the rise is a departure from recent labor market performance, it's not indicative of negative conditions yet. 

"These are still good numbers,” Rizzo said, adding that around 4% is considered to be "full employment" among economists. 

“If last year was an A+ for the unemployment rate for August, this year is an A,” he said. "I think the labor market is still quite strong.”

New York City’s rate was unchanged in August at 4.3%.

“We’re just going to see whether this truly is an inflection point or just one off month,” Patel said. “We’re going to have to wait and see through the rest of the year.”

On the Island, the city of Long Beach had the lowest jobless rate of any local municipality, at 3.2%. The Village of Hempstead had the highest unemployment rate, at 4.8%.

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