The unemployment rate in the Town of Brookhaven dipped slightly during January of 2011 to 8.3 percent from the previous year's January rate of 8.5 percent, according to data released Wednesday by the New York State Department of Labor.
Brookhaven fared better in January than some Suffolk County towns; Islip's unemployment rate in January was 8.7 percent, Riverhead's was 9.6 percent and Southampton saw an all-time high of 10.3 percent. Nearby economic engines like Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory kept the local economy going with public sector jobs during a time when private sector jobs were hit hardest, but Michael Crowell, senior Long Island economist for the state labor department, said that will likely change as the government lags behind the private sector in adding jobs going forward.
"You’ve heard about teacher layoffs," he said. "I don’t think anybody’s immune. The government recession may not have hit fully yet, but I think it’s on its way.”
Brookhaven came in slightly above the overall Suffolk County unemployment rate of 8 percent, but below the New York State rate of 9 percent.
Suffolk's largest municipality saw a small decline in the size of its labor force – about 500 people – between January 2010 and January 2011. It also saw a month-to-month increase in its unemployment rate from December of 2010, when the unemployment rate in Brookhaven had . The difference from December to January is reflected in previous years' data as well, and can be explained by the seasonal job market.
"A seasonal increase happens every year," Crowell said. "The main reason is all this hiring in retail mainly for the holidays. A lot of people get temporary jobs and they’re let go again."
Statistics for each month are usually released during the following month, but after the end of 2010, the state labor department undertook a benchmarking process that caused January's data to be delayed. During that process, the labor department compared the results of surveys – on which the monthly data is based – to tax records, and made adjustments where necessary. The end result was that the overall unemployment rate on Long Island rose from 7.1 percent to 7.4 percent.
In terms of job growth, Crowell said Long Island added 5,600 jobs as a region in January, an increase of 0.6 percent. Nassau County's unemployment rate fell from 7.8 percent in January of 2010 to 7.5 percent in January of 2011. Crowell pointed to a more robust New York City economy as one potential factor.
"There’s a bigger proportion of Nassau workers who are employed in New York City and right now the New York City economy is doing quite well," he said.