Long Island's private sector had 5,400 more jobs in June than it did the same month a year ago, marking the third month in a row that the local economy has added jobs. But the growth overall continues to be weak and led by sectors with lower-paying jobs.
In the May period the economy added 700 jobs, revised up from the previously reported 500, according to New York State Labor Department data released yesterday. And in the April period it added 5,000 jobs. June's 6.7 unemployment rate was unchanged from May, but remains considerably above the 4.6 percent of June 2008, the start of the recession on Long Island.
"It isn't as dynamic a growth as we would like now," said Gary Huth, the department's principal economist for Long Island. "But each month is a further confirmation that we are moving further ahead."
The trade, transportation and utilities sector, which includes retail, led job increases in the June period - expanding by 6,200 jobs from a year ago. The retail sector, which was hit hard during the recession, drove most of the new jobs in the category. But its continued strength is uncertain.
"Long Island has done very well in terms of consumer spending in the first half of this year, as indicated by trends in sales tax revenue accruing to Nassau and Suffolk counties," said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association. But she added, "The pace of job growth remains extremely modest on Long Island, and unless there is faster job and income growth here, it may be difficult to sustain the recent pace of consumer spending."
Some local retailers reported increased business and hiring.
Debbie Blakla, the manager of Libutti Diamond Jewelers in Huntington, estimates that the store's sales were up 30 percent in the first six months of the year compared with last year, and the store has added another employee, bringing the staff to 10. She attributed the increased sales in part to the store's focus on value-conscious customers. In fact, it now features a new, more moderate line of engagement rings.
"People are still looking to get engaged, but they want quality and value," she said.
At Beltrami men's clothing store, also in Huntington, owner Ben Youdim said that sales were ahead 20 percent in the first six months of this year compared with last year, and he has hired a part-time employee for sales who joins the tailor he already employed.
He attributes the increased sales partly to the appeal of his better-to-moderate clothing lines and to the fact that he allows people who can't come during regular store hours to make appointments.
While growth is welcome after the job market had contracted for close to two years, Kamer worried about the continuing rise in lower-wage jobs in sectors such as retail and health care and the continuing losses in the higher-wage professional and business-services category and in financial activities.
The state lost 8,500 jobs in the June period. But its unemployment rate inched down to 8.2 percent in June from 8.3 in May. State data, unlike local data, is seasonally adjusted.