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Sandy slams LI job market

Luis Estevez, of Rockville Centre, stands in his

Luis Estevez, of Rockville Centre, stands in his family's storm-trashed business, Long Beach Food Center, in Island Park the day after superstorm Sandy ripped the door from the establishment and flooded the small grocery. (Oct. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Amanda Voisard

The one-two punch of superstorm Sandy and continued government layoffs knocked Long Island to its first monthly job losses in November in more than 21/2 years.

The Island had 8,100 fewer jobs last month than a year earlier, the state Labor Department reported yesterday.

The year-over-year decline was the first since March 2010. The loss of three tenths of a percent of the Island's jobs left about 1.3 million people employed here last month.

Government jobs declined by 5,400. And the private sector, which until November had consistently added employment, lost 2,700 jobs.

The effects of Sandy are especially evident in a comparison of October to November. Nongovernment employment on the Island fell by 5,100 in the month-over-month period, said labor department analyst Shital Patel. A seasonal gain of 3,900 is more common from October to November, she said.

"Hurricane Sandy," she said in an email, "had a major impact on Long Island's labor market."

Economic forecasters have estimated that Sandy cost the island's economy up to $10 billion, mostly from business shutdowns due to power outages.

The storm struck Oct. 29. Patel said the last time the region lost jobs from October to November was in 2008, during the recession.

Particularly hard hit in November were small businesses, such as restaurants and pharmacies, in heavily damaged residential areas.

Employment at food services and drinking establishments declined by 2,400 from October to November, when a smaller loss of 600 is typical, Patel said.

The overall leisure and hospitality sector, which includes eating and drinking establishments as well as arts, entertainment, recreation and accommodations, also was hard hit, she said, losing 6,500 jobs from October to November.

While the storm's damage is now creating work for the construction industry, Patel said in November it forced the postponement of many projects. The construction sector lost 1.7 percent of its jobs from October to November, leaving 56,600.

Statewide, the November numbers looked better, with a gain of 90,000 jobs from a year earlier, a 1 percent increase, the labor department said.

Long Islanders seeking work might find it more readily in New York City, the department's numbers suggest; the city gained 66,200 jobs from November 2011 compared with last month, a 1.1 percent increase.

Some Island industries gained workers in November from a year earlier, including financial activities, trade, transportation and utilities, education and health services, and professional and business services. But 6,900 jobs were lost in construction; jobs also declined year over year in leisure and hospitality and in manufacturing.

Chief economist Pearl Kamer of the Long Island Association, a business group, said that because of the impact from Sandy, the November data indicate little about the overall strength of Long Island's recovery from the recession, which had been slowing in recent months.

"I think we're going to have to wait another two or three months to see if the slowdown in [job] growth that we saw before the storm is really continuing," she said.

Such a slowdown, she says, would portend reduced consumer spending and bad news for the local economy.




Jobs that grew on Long Island in November from a year ago:

Financial activities: up 4,500

Trade, transportation, utilities: up 2,000

Private education and health services: up 1,700

Professional and business services: up 1,100

Jobs the shrank in November from a year ago:

Construction: down 6,900 jobs

Leisure and hospitality: down 2,500

Manufacturing: down 1,700

Government: down 5,400

Source: New York State Department of Labor

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