The rate remains considerably above the Island's 3.7 percent unemployment rate in March 2007, nine months before the recession officially began. Nearly three years after the recession ended in June 2009, the Island's jobless rate remains at a recession-like level.
"It is still high on a historical basis, but we are seeing some very slow improvement in the rate," said Shital Patel, a labor-market analyst in the department's Hicksville office.
The department uses year-to-year comparisons because the data aren't seasonally adjusted for unusual monthly swings. The data are preliminary and subject to revision.
Long Island's unemployment rate compares with 8.7 percent for the state and 8.4 percent nationally; those figures are not seasonally adjusted either.
Despite an unchanged jobless rate, the number of unemployed Long Islanders rose to 105,000 in March, compared with 103,600 a year earlier, according to the unemployment report, which surveys households.
The increase suggests that more "discouraged workers," or those who had given up looking for work, jumped back into the job market. The unemployment tally only counts people searching for work.
An improving job market may have prompted their return. The number of employed workers rose to 1.348 million in March, from 1.344 million the year before. Last week the department's employment report, which surveys businesses, showed that the Island had 19,900 more jobs in March than it did the year before, the strongest growth so far this year.
Despite improving numbers, the Island's economy remains weak, said Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, a Melville think tank. He said many people are forced to work part-time because they can't find full-time jobs.
Greenvale resident Alyssa Shulman, 50, has been job hunting since June, when she lost her full-time job as a special-education teaching assistant after three years. Shulman, who has a master's in remedial reading and is certified to be a full-fledged teacher, has given up on finding another teaching job. Instead she is looking for office work after taking some training classes at a Labor Department career center.
But because the job market "is so flooded," her education doesn't give her an edge over people with office experience, she said. Companies, she said, "are going to take the person with experience."