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LI unemployment climbs to 7.2% in November

Hundreds of Long Islanders seeking jobs attended a

Hundreds of Long Islanders seeking jobs attended a job fair in East Meadow hosted by Senator Kemp Hannon. (Aug. 26, 2010) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Long Island had 10,500 more private sector jobs in November than it had a year earlier, but it was not enough to keep the unemployment rate from rising.

State Labor Department data show the Grinch at work, with a 7.2 percent jobless rate on the Island, up from the 6.9 percent both in October and a year ago. Despite the holidays, when seasonal hirings usually put the glow on job numbers, there were 4,100 fewer Long Islanders employed last month versus October, the state said.

Much of the job gain was in health and education. Government took the biggest hit as deficits led to layoffs and early retirements.

A job gain and a higher unemployment rate are not contradictory. Job numbers are largely based on surveys of businesses located on the Island, while unemployment figures are from surveys of Long Islanders, who may have lost work off the Island, said Gary Huth, the state Labor Department's principal economist for Long Island.

The big mystery on Long Island was the retail industry. Statewide, the sector saw a 1.8 percent increase from a year ago, but Long Island experienced a 0.4 percent drop, or 700 fewer jobs compared with November 2009. That's a sharp contrast to October, when retail jobs rose 1,900 from a year ago.

Retail sales seem healthier this year, but "companies may have increased sales while limiting hiring," said Huth. He warned against taking one month's numbers too seriously.

At Rena Marie Jewelers, a family enterprise with three Long Island stores, co-owner Jim Sanicola usually hires about two seasonal workers per store but held back this year at one store, where his bookkeeper now doubles as saleswoman.

"That's partly because of the economy," he said Thursday. "Even though it's nine days before Christmas, it's slow in general."

Olivia's Pink Door boutique in Locust Valley usually hires at least one holiday worker, but not this year, said co-owner Lisa Colon.

Business has been slow since August, a product of the store's location and cautious consumer spending, she said, and she plans to close the store at the end of January.

"Even locally, people tend to go to the mall, which is a one-stop place," she said.

The state saw its smallest gain in months. There were 700 more jobs in November compared with a year ago. The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.3 percent, up from October's revised 8.2 percent, but down from 8.9 percent a year ago.

Having lost her social worker job in May, Lydia Crawford of Glen Cove has been walking into businesses with "help wanted" signs in windows, but even delis want someone with experience.

"I've been working since I was 15 years old, and I never had a problem getting a job," Crawford said. "I haven't been getting any response, and I don't understand why." With Keiko Morris

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