Long Island’s unemployment rate rose in July as more residents jumped on the sidelines in search of work but struggled to find positions, state data showed.
The island’s unemployment rate rose to 5.2% last month, from 5% in June, the state Labor Department reported on Tuesday.
Despite the increase in the overall rate – typical for July – the underlying numbers suggest that more Islanders have entered the workforce in search of employment. Last month, the labor force – the sum of all employed residents and unemployed residents actively seeking work – increased from 6,700 million to 1.46 million.
Of those, about 2,500 Islanders have landed positions, while just over 4,000 have not.
“Better job prospects have drawn people into the workforce,” said Shital Patel, local labor analyst at the Department of Labor’s Hicksville office. “In June and July, 6,700 Long Islanders entered the workforce, which is higher than the typical 5,100 increase we normally see in July.”
Patel said the unemployment rate fell significantly from July 2020, when it stood at 12.6%.
“This is a huge improvement over where we were a year ago,” said Steven Kent, professor of economics at Molloy College.
The big unanswered question, he said, is how long it will take for the region’s economy to reach pre-pandemic employment levels.
“The problem we’re all trying to figure out is where it goes from here,” Kent said. “Are we bouncing in the 5-6% range for a while, as people’s concerns about COVID, especially the delta variant, impact some people’s ability to return to work.”
Another concern, Kent said, is what is happening to industries like recreation and hospitality that have struggled to attract employees.
“One of the problems is that the wages have not increased enough in these jobs and some people are also afraid of taking over some of these roles,” he said. Many former hospitality workers have probably “found opportunities in other industries,” he added.
Overall, the labor force remains down by 55,400 compared to the 1.53 million islanders enumerated in July 2019.
In addition, unemployment remains higher than it was before the pandemic, Patel said, “when the region was experiencing a particularly tight labor market and the unemployment rate was near its lowest point.”
The unemployment rate in July 2019 was 3.7%.
Many Islanders are still “on the sidelines” and have yet to join the job search due to child and elder care issues, as well as lingering fears over COVID-19 and the variant. emerging delta, she said.
On the island, the municipalities with the highest and lowest unemployment rates were the village of Hempstead at 7.2% and the city of Southampton at 4.2%, respectively.
Unemployment rates in the state and New York City rose last month, with the state reaching 7.4% and the city 10.2%, according to state data.