A man passes a sign of the times on Main Street...

A man passes a sign of the times on Main Street in Easport over the weekend. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Long Island’s unemployment rate remained virtually unchanged in October from the month before, state data released Tuesday shows.

The Island’s unemployment rate ticked up to 6.5% last month, or 0.2 percentage points up from the region’s 6.3% jobless rate in September, the state Labor Department reported Tuesday.

While the jobless rate is down significantly from early in the pandemic, when it hit a record high of 16.1% in April, October’s unemployment rate remains far above the norm in recent years. During the same month last year, the jobless rate was 3.4%, below the 4% benchmark many economists refer to as full employment.

John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group, said the numbers underlying the static jobless rate are troubling.

"The only reason it looks like it hasn’t changed much is because people left the labor force," Rizzo said. "It’s not a big change, but it’s not a change in the right direction."

From September to October, the total labor force – the sum of all those with jobs and all those without but actively looking – shrank by 10,000 on Long Island, to 1.433 million. During that same period, the number of employed Islanders fell by 12,200 to 1.34 million, and the number of unemployed residents who are looking for work rose 2,100 to 93,000.

When considering the dip in the labor force and number of employed residents, Rizzo characterized the recent monthly report as "slightly bad news."

"It’s usually the case that the number of people employed between September and October on Long Island goes up," he said.

National labor data suggests that women may be leaving the labor force in greater numbers than men, said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the department’s Hicksville office.

"September’s national report showed a large number of American women dropped out of the labor force, as many face unprecedented caregiving burdens as schools remain closed for in-person learning," Patel said. "Long Island’s steep labor force decline in September mirrored that of the nation, and October’s decline may be a continuation of that trend, although our regional data lack details to show exactly who is exiting the workforce."

Additionally, Patel said, it appears that most of the Islanders who lost their jobs compared to the same time a year ago are no longer looking for work.

"Of the 103,200 Long Islanders that lost their jobs compared to a year ago, nearly 60% have left the labor force," she said.

Nassau’s unemployment rate was 6.7% and Suffolk’s was 6.3%.

Among the Island’s municipalities, Hempstead village had the highest unemployment rate, at 10.5%, and Smithtown and Southampton had the lowest, at 5.5%.

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