Amid Long Island's worst job market since the 1990s, a panel at Dowling College Friday speculated on which economic sectors are likely to lead the way out of the recession and what changes in those sectors will mean for job seekers.
The Island's best hope for generating jobs lies in the modernization of its health care and energy sectors, said Gary Huth, the state Labor Department's principal economist for Long Island. He was one of three panelists who spoke at a symposium hosted by Dowling's Long Island Economic and Social Policy Institute.
The growth in both sectors will become increasingly technology driven, he said. For example, job growth will come in health care as hospitals and doctors' offices seek to digitize their records, for which federal stimulus money is available.
"We can't have a well-functioning economy without significant health care modernization," Huth told the early morning audience.
The recession's impact on local employment has created an urgency to create jobs. The Long Island economy has lost jobs every month since September 2008. And November's 6.8 percent unemployment rate, though lower than October's, is among the highest in 17 years.
High technology is even transforming manufacturing, said Peter Crisano, a panelist and special assistant to the Suffolk County labor commissioner.
Assembly-line jobs won't grow here because local companies can't compete with cheaper labor overseas, he said. But the Island has shown that it has the know-how to develop and make sophisticated high-tech machinery such as the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment made here.
"That type of manufacturing and development we can do on Long Island," he said.
So what does all this mean for job seekers?
"Anybody who doesn't have a good set of IT skills in their toolbox would be remiss," Huth said.