Positive Signs Seen in Long Island and New York State Economy

Long Island job fair.

With the unemployment rate on Long Island hitting its lowest level in eight years—4.1 percent in November—the labor market is tightening, which could translate to good paying jobs for highly skilled, better-educated workers although wage growth promises to be uneven, experts say.

In his January 2016 report, John Rizzo, Long Island Association’s chief economist, found that consumer confidence and spending have been up overall, compared to previous years, and now housing starts and new home sales on the Island are starting to show encouraging signs because inflation remains “well in check.”

He did express concern about global economic growth shrinking as oil prices continue to fall. How those factors, China’s recent turmoil in particular, will play out on LI remains to be seen, considering that international markets don’t have a major impact on the Island’s economy. As recent days on Wall Street have shown, investors have become quite skittish and that could take a toll in the months ahead.

Although the New York State Department of Labor’s Long Island Region won’t be releasing work force data for December 2015 until Jan. 26, it did report that the number of private sector jobs here increased by 21,600 or 1.9 percent, to 1,130,800. New York’s over-the-year private sector growth rate was 2.1 percent, while the nation’s was 2.2 percent.

Unfortunately, the Island’s private sector job count dipped by 2,200 workers between November and December (not seasonally adjusted), compared to an average gain of 5,200, the Labor Department reported, because “seasonal hiring remained weaker than normal for the retail industry, adding a record-low 1,000 employees when the industry typically hires 4,600 workers in December,” according to Shital Patel, labor market analyst for the Long Island Region at the state Department of Labor.

Part of the decline stemmed from the closure of A&P-owned stores on the Island, which declared bankruptcy in July. Patel also reported that restaurants “also shed a record 1,100 employees in December, compared to an average of 100.”

But workers were making gains in six of nine private industry sectors in December compared to a year ago, according to Patel’s analysis: education and health services added 12,500 more jobs; natural resources, mining and construction had 5,900; professional and business services had 4,700; leisure and hospitality added 1,200; other services added 700, and information showed 100 more.

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According to preliminary figures released by the state Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in New York remained unchanged at 4.8 percent in December, its lowest level since November 2007, and a few clicks below the national unemployment rate of 5.0 percent.

It was a good month for the state, the department found, because private sector job count rose by 13,200, or 0.2 percent, to 7,880,000, a record high.

“New York’s labor market continued on its upward trend in December 2015,” said Bohdan M. Wynnyk, deputy director of the Division of Research and Statistics at the state Labor Department. “Not only did New York State’s private sector job count reach a new record high, but our statewide unemployment rate remained below the nation’s rate in December 2015.”