Lindsay Fudim, 22, of Babylon, a recent hire at Henry...

Lindsay Fudim, 22, of Babylon, a recent hire at Henry Schein, poses in her office in Melville. (March 26, 2013) Credit: Heather Walsh

Employment on Long Island showed respectable growth in February, with 16,200 more jobs here than in the same month a year earlier, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

But growth slowed considerably from January, when the year-over-year change in jobs was a gain of 26,200.

One local economist considers the latest data worrisome because they once again show the strongest growth in lower-paying sectors, making Long Island increasingly unaffordable for some workers.

"If these new jobs will not support a family on Long Island, even if you have two wage earners . . . then your economy has not really improved that much," said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group.

Two of Long Island's lowest-paying categories led job growth last month -- the trade, transportation and utilities category, and the private-education and health-services category. The trade category, which includes retail, had 5,700 more jobs. The other category had 5,400 more jobs, mostly in health care.

By contrast, government jobs, one of the higher-paying sectors, had the biggest decline, 3,800, largely because of the continuing layoffs of local teachers.

The higher-wage construction and manufacturing categories also showed losses, down 1,400 jobs and 700 jobs, respectively.

Some higher-paying job categories continued to make solid gains. For example, the professional and business-services category, which includes lawyers, engineers and computer programmers, has gained back all the jobs lost during the recession, said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the Labor Department's Hicksville office. That category had 4,800 more jobs.

The job market remains challenging for many workers. Babylon resident Lindsay Fudim, 22, who graduated from SUNY Oneonta in December 2011, thought she might have to relocate after she had no luck finding work.

"It was getting a little worrisome," she said.

She snagged a local sports-marketing internship that paid just $25 a day. Then a friend's mother who works at Melville-based Henry Schein, one of the Island's largest companies and a distributor of health-care products and services, suggested that she apply. She was hired for customer service in August.

The Labor Department will release the February unemployment rate on Tuesday. The rate inched up to 7.9 percent in January, from 7.8 percent a year earlier.

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