At first glance, the latest data from the state Labor department is outright depressing:
“New York State's economy gained 100 private sector jobs, or less than 0.1 percent, in February 2011…,” according to the state’s latest jobs summary.
It’s a big state: 100 jobs?
Things aren’t nearly that bad, said Michael Crowell, senior economist with the 's regional office in Hicksville.
Long Island is gaining jobs at the fastest rate in the state, leading the charge of the recovery, adding 12,100 jobs, or a 1.2 percent gain, since the recession began and set off 25 straight months of consecutive job losses.
“That’s a pretty decent figure,” Crowell said of the gains. “It’s broadly based, including education and health services, which had the biggest gain of 5,100 (jobs) over the year on a net basis.”
Jobs were also added in the hospitality industry on Long Island, he said.
The private sector is adding jobs statewide while government jobs are disappearing, accounting for the flat state-wide growth rate, Crowell said.
The Empire State’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady at 8.2 percent in February 2011 over the previous month. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped slightly, from 9 percent in January to 8.9 percent in February 2011.
In the , unemployment has remained consistently below the state and national average. The unemployment rate was at 6.7 percent in January, the most recent figures available.
New York City's rate was unchanged at 8.9 percent, while the rate outside of New York City decreased from 7.8 percent in January to 7.7 percent in February 2011.
So, what does “holding steady” mean? If the recession is slowly winding down, why are the employment numbers rising at an apparent crawl?
The reason, Crowell said, is the private sector is steadily adding jobs as businesses see daylight emerging from the dark recession. The medical profession is hiring across the state, for example. So is the financial sector, which showed significant gains over the past year.
The category of "amusement, gambling and recreation" industries showed nearly an 8 percent gain in jobs statewide over the year. Bars were hiring, as well, the figures indicate.
Meanwhile, government workers, including teachers and postal workers, are losing their jobs as municipal budgets feel the crunch of the state budget’s fiscal vice. And, construction-related jobs on Long Island continue to take a pounding, state statistics show.
“It’s ironic,” Crowell said. “The private sector was shedding jobs in 2009 -- 40,000 jobs each month – while the public sector was adding them. Now, the various regions around the state are back to adding jobs but ironically it’s the government that is being hit.”
Crowell said there is logic to that phenomenon: municipal budgets tend to be finalized long in advance, explaining why government cutbacks are just now showing up in the figures.
The private sector growth is driving the economy, now, Crowell said. “It’s the private sector that will pull the economy out of the trough,” he said. “Whether (municipal) jobs eventually come back or not is a political decision.”