Long Island’s unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent in September, from 7.2 percent during the same month last year, the New York State Department of Labor announced Tuesday.
The new unemployment data, however, seems to contradict a report last week from the labor department that said more than 8,000 private sector jobs were lost over the year in September. The number may also be influenced by people who were once considered unemployed, but have given up looking for work and are now listed as discouraged workers, said a local economist.
“It seems like a paradox,” said Michael Crowell, senior economist with the state labor department. “Because the unemployment rate has been going down but we’ve also, now for five months in a row, been losings jobs.”
Although the unemployment rate dropped over the year, it went up a bit from August when it was 6.8 percent.
In Nassau, the rate fell to 6.7 percent, and in Suffolk the rate dropped to 7.2 percent.
Crowell said the paradox can best be explained by taking a look at how the two studies are conducted. The jobs survey takes a look at jobs only on Long Island, whereas unemployment numbers examines the number of people who live on Long Island who may find jobs in New York City or elsewhere. So its realistic that the unemployment rate can drop, while the number of private sector jobs lost also takes a hit.
The state comes up with the unemployment rate by conducting surveys and asking residents if they worked for pay during the week the survey was conducted. If the response is yes, they are considered employed, even if they only worked part-time.
“Even more important in my mind is the next question, is ‘well, you weren’t working, were you looking for work?’ said Crowell. “If you were looking for work you’re counted as unemployed,” and if not, they are considered discouraged workers.
LI’s unemployment numbers also fared better than the state overall, which was 7.8 percent in September. And the same goes for the Island compared to the rest of the country.
“We’re down below 7, you know, that’s pretty good,” said Crowell. “But the labor force of Long Island is pretty well-educated, which is something that tends to lower the unemployment rate.”
With the holiday season quickly approaching, Crowell said it’s too early to predict whether additional hiring by retailers will put a dent in the unemployment numbers, but he added, “the end of the year holidays almost always do create a boost.”