In April, the latest month data is available, Long Island's...

In April, the latest month data is available, Long Island's unemployment rate reached 16%, about four times its pre-COVID-19 rate.   Credit: Getty Images/Stephanie Keith

Long Island saw a major drop in the number of newly filed unemployment claims last week, marking the first time in the last nine weeks that new jobless claims have been below 10,000. 

Last week, 9,886 Islanders filed for unemployment, a precipitous drop from the previous week, when 24,100 Long Islanders made new claims, according to state Labor Department data. The last time the number of new claims was under 10,000 was during the week of March 21, when the number of new claims reached 7,761.

In total, 350,000 Long Islanders have filed jobless claims over the past 11 weeks. 

While last week's drop is promising, it’s important to note that the one-week decline may not signal a significant slowing in job losses, said Richard Vogel, dean of the school of business and professor of economics at Farmingdale State College.

“It could be an anomaly, or it could be announcing the signal that things are changing,” Vogel said. “I don’t know that you can be more positive and say, ‘Well, it looks like we’ve hit the bottom now.' ”

Vogel also said it was possible that the recent one-week decline in jobless claims — a roughly 59% drop from the prior week — could be due in part to staffing needs amid Long Island’s phased reopening.

He suggested that “firms were still holding off [on layoffs], and as they started to see that things were lifting, then they didn’t have any further staffing drops and didn’t lay off anybody.”

Watching the numbers for the next few weeks will show if the one-week decline marks the beginning of positive trend, he said

Weekly jobless claims on the Island hit an all-time high of 59,526 in the week that ended April 11.

In April, the latest month data is available, the unemployment rate on the Island reached 16%, more than quadruple the 3.8% rate reported before the economic effects of COVID-19  became widespread in March.

Economists say it is likely the number of unemployed New York residents is much higher than official state numbers suggest because only those unemployed who are also looking for work are factored into the unemployment rate.

More than 262,000 jobs, or nearly 20% of the local job market, were lost in April, according to Labor Department data.

Gregory DeFreitas, senior labor economics professor at Hofstra University, said that the one-week decline in claims on Long Island followed a similar trend seen throughout the state and country, though the decline was less dramatic across the nation. 

“We look for any glimmers of hope," DeFreitas said. That said, the recent week's data still show that there's "still 10 times as many people receiving unemployment benefits for this time of year than is normal."

Just over 1,500 Long Islander filed unemployment claims during the same week last year.

While the number of those seeking aid has declined week over week, DeFreitas added that out-of-work Long Islanders may be headed toward more financial hardship once the federally funded boost to unemployment benefits ends in July.
"That’s going to be a big loss in money for the unemployed," he said. 

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