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State: LI jobs grow slightly in December

Anthony Saladino at the office of Corbett Public

Anthony Saladino at the office of Corbett Public Relations, a job he landed after about seven months. "Even though I went to a college with great alumni connections, I knew it was still going to be a tough time," he said. (Jan. 17, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Island had 2,700 more jobs in December than in the same month a year earlier, as it struggled to bounce back from the devastating effects of superstorm Sandy, state Labor Department data released Thursday show.

Private-sector jobs grew by 8,800 year over year in December, a strong showing after they shrank in November. But losses in government jobs in December reduced the Island's total gain for the month.

The department focuses on year-over-year comparisons because local data aren't adjusted to account for monthly, seasonal fluctuations.

The most recent report still reflected continuing weakness in the Island employment market. In fact, the Island's 0.2 percent gain in December was lower than the job growth in neighboring regions. New York City's employment grew by 2 percent, for example. Putnam-Rockland-Westchester grew by 0.5 percent.

And the Island's government sector continued to shrink, primarily because of layoffs of public school teachers. There were 6,100 fewer government jobs on Long Island in December than a year earlier, cutting overall employment growth to 2,700 jobs.

Construction job losses narrowed sharply in December, which local economists attributed to rebuilding efforts following Sandy. Construction had 2,400 fewer jobs in December, compared with a year earlier. In November the sector was down 7,200 jobs, the Labor Department said Thursday.

"It means that construction workers are coming back to work," said Pearl Kamer, chief economist of the Long Island Association, the Island's largest business group. "That is one of the few positive things about Sandy."

Though rebuilding efforts could boost construction employment this month, a Labor Department market analyst was cautious about the prospect of sustained growth in construction jobs while the real estate market remains weak.

"I don't think the Sandy effect will get us out of it completely," said Shital Patel, who is based in the department's Hicksville office.

Among the bright spots in December, Patel said, was that the financial activities category and the professional and business-services sector continued to show "solid growth." Both those areas have high-paying jobs.

Merrick resident Anthony Saladino, 22, started a full-time job Monday at Corbett Public Relations in Floral Park. Saladino, who graduated with a marketing degree from Siena College last year, was previously unable to find more than a part-time job. Given the weak employment market, he expected his hunt to last at least a year.

"Even though I went to a college with great alumni connections, I knew it was still going to be a tough time," he said. He landed the job after about seven months.

The Labor Department will release the December unemployment rate on Tuesday. The jobless rate rose to 7.1 percent on Long Island in November, from 6.8 percent a year earlier.

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