Millie Robles lost her job with an Islip insurance adjuster...

Millie Robles lost her job with an Islip insurance adjuster in November. She hopes to persuade employers to take on an older worker like herself. (March 12, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Despite stronger employment growth, Long Island's unemployment rate inched up to 7.9 percent in January from 7.8 percent the year before, the state Labor Department said Tuesday.

The devastation of superstorm Sandy continued to affect the rate, especially in hard-hit Long Beach, where joblessness remained at 10.8 percent for a second month, compared with 7.3 percent in January 2012.

Last week, the department said the Island had 26,200 more jobs in January, compared with a year earlier, the biggest increase since March 2012. Revisions in that report also showed that last year's monthly job counts, which are based on surveys of businesses, were significantly higher than initially reported.

The latest report, which includes the number of employed workers on Long Island, likewise shows upward revisions. The average number of employed workers locally was 1.371 million in 2012, up 14,000 from a year ago. Before the revision, the difference was about 2,500, said Shital Patel, labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office. Those data, as well as the unemployment rate, are based on Census statistics.

Some economists said the Island isn't creating enough high-paying jobs, which tend to spawn other jobs. The debate over the changing nature of employment here was heightened last week after Northrop Grumman announced it was moving about 850 jobs off Long Island, most of them high-paying engineering jobs. Meanwhile, some of the strongest growth here has been in lower-paying jobs.

"Until that change in creating higher-paying jobs occurs, LI will continue to have these levels of unemployment," said Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, a Melville think tank.

The Island's higher jobless rate could also indicate that more discouraged workers are looking for a job and are now counted as unemployed. Discouraged workers, those who have given up looking for a job because they don't believe any are available, aren't included in unemployment data. The number of unemployed workers rose to 118,100 in January from 114,600 the year before.

The department uses year-over-year comparisons because the data aren't adjusted to reflect seasonal swings in employment.

East Islip resident Millie Robles, 57, lost her job in November when the Islip insurance adjuster where she had worked for 25 years downsized. She believes biases against older workers nullify her advantage of years of experience. Some employers think older workers won't stick around long, she said. She hopes to convince them otherwise. "I am very dedicated and devoted," she said. "When I work for someone I am there for a very long time."

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