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Long Island

Jump in claims worries LI job seekers

John Heckert wipes his eyes as he fills

John Heckert wipes his eyes as he fills out computer forms to apply for unemployment insurance in Oakland, Calif. (Aug. 5, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON - More people than expected filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, hitting the highest level since November, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

The 500,000 claims, adjusted to weed out seasonal quirks, meant a third straight week of increases. The figure was just under the 509,000 claims received the week ending Nov. 14.

It renewed doubts of a recovery, especially with job seekers at the Hicksville Career Center, a one-stop education and information center operated by the New York State Labor Department and Oyster Bay Town.

"When they say the economy is improving, I don't buy it," said Camille Santoro of Glen Head.

She found the job market to be a desert after her layoff in March as a part-time medical billing secretary, but now she's a lucky one. Next week she starts part time as a caregiver to people with Alzheimer's.

The jobless news comes before the uptick of filings from summer workers, who lose their jobs around Labor Day.

Next week Silvia Altman of Selden will be a number in jobless claims reports, having lost her customer service job Monday after 20 years.

Friends tell her it will be tough for a woman of 59 to find work. Altman said, "I tell them I'll just give it my best."

All day the jobless streamed in to the center to report on progress, appeal denial of benefits or use computers. Upstairs, 13 people took computer lessons in one room while others next door learned about credit repair.

Frandy Francois of Westbury filed for unemployment in June and hasn't gotten steady work since he and his mother closed their grocery store two years ago due to the economy.

Now he earns a little money at flea markets, selling goods he buys at auctions from public storage facilities. "Sometimes I make pretty good money if I have brand new stuff," he said.

In the computer class, where students learned how to navigate Word, several said their job hunting was jeopardized by federal budget cuts. They said they wanted to learn advanced computer skills, but some classes might be cut.

The state Labor Department's head on Long Island said officials are looking at priorities in job training strategically, moving funds to meet the needs of the jobless and employers. "We've had a kind of rethinking," Mark Grossman said. "We're making it work."

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