A person walks past a vacated storefront along Wellwood Avenue...

A person walks past a vacated storefront along Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Jobless claims on Long Island jumped for the third week in a row, mirroring a rise across the nation as the country struggles to contain COVID-19.

New unemployment claims on the Island climbed to 10,598 last week, up more than 31% from the prior week’s claims of 8,063. The new weekly data, released Thursday by the state Labor Department, shows that local jobless claims have increased significantly each week since the week of Christmas.

Claims two weeks ago had increased over 30%, and the week before that, they jumped 48%.

The last time new unemployment claims in Nassau and Suffolk hit more than 10,000 was in July, according to state data.

"This is what I was hoping wouldn’t happen but was actually expecting to see," said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group.

Rizzo said small businesses have been overdue for more stimulus money — especially those in the service sector, and in the leisure and hospitality sector, all of which involve plenty of interpersonal contact. And though aid — including the continuation of unemployment benefits like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new round of PPP funding for businesses and an enhancement to existing jobless benefits of $300 a week — is ramping up, it will take time for those efforts to impact the economy.

"The good news is it seems like economic policy is being implemented to address it," Rizzo said. "But this isn’t going to help people who have already lost their small businesses for good. This isn’t going to help everyone, for sure."

Across the state, accommodations and food services continued to post some of the highest numbers of weekly jobless claims, hitting more than 6,500 claims last week, coming third, behind construction and transportation and warehousing.

Mark Irgang, president of the Long Island Hospitality Association, said restaurants and hotels are struggling.

"Traditionally, for most hoteliers in New York, January is probably the worst month of the year," Irgang said. Coupled with the pandemic, there's a lot of pain in the industry.

He said the issue is dire, adding that "seven out of 10 of my colleagues" have either been furloughed, permanently laid off, or have taken a salary cut.

And in the January cold, "Heat lamps and tents are not really attractive to the typical customer," he said.

"It’s bad out there."

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