Flexible working for North Shore residents aids in comparably lower unemployment rate

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As the national unemployment rate exceeded 14 percent in April, the flexibility that some Nassau County and North Shore residents have to work remotely may have resulted in lower jobless rates compared with the rest of New York.

John Rizzo, the chief economist for the Long Island Association, said he believes the occupations of North Shore residents allow for more remote working, which correlates to an area with fewer unemployment claims than the rest of the state.

“People who work in the financial services or real estate industries may have a higher chance for remote opportunities,” Rizzo said. “I think that North Shore residents have a relatively high concentration of those types of jobs.”

Figures also showed that the unemployment rate in New York state for March was 4.4 percent, compared with 3.5 percent in the Town of North Hempstead. That data was collected before the huge layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The tourism and hospitality industry on Long Island – a driving force for summer revenue – has been significantly hurt, according to Rizzo and Nassau County officials.

“Leisure and hospitality is an important part of the economy, especially the summer tourism season, so that is going to take a big hit,” Rizzo said.

Discover Long Island President and CEO Kristen Jarnagin said she expects the tourism industry on Long Island to be severely affected by the ripple effects of the virus.

“People may not realize that tourism on Long Island is a $6.1 billion industry and it is suffering greatly right now,” Jarnagin said. “Last year, tourism generated $740 million in local and state tax revenues, so we’re going to see the immediate impacts of that.”

In the last week of April, according to statistics from the state Department of Labor, more than 26,000 Long Islanders filed for unemployment benefits, the lowest number of claims filed since hitting a peak of 59,000 two weeks before.

According to state figures, almost 260,000 Long Islanders, or almost one in five of all local workers, have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began in March. As of May 6, the Department of Labor has paid out $5.8 billion worth of benefits to 1.5 million New Yorkers without a job.

Rizzo stressed the importance of reopening the state’s economy to avoid more small businesses shutting down and creating further unemployment throughout New York.

“The economy itself is on a ventilator. This is not a joking matter,” Rizzo said. “This needs to be taken more seriously by people. The coronavirus is not the only bad thing that can happen to us.”

Rizzo referred to a United Nations report that predicted the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic may end up killing more people than the actual disease itself. To put that in perspective, the coronavirus had killed more than 286,000 people throughout the world.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office expected the jobless rate to be at 9.5 percent by the end of fiscal year 2021.  Rizzo said that number sounded “pessimistic” for Long Island, but admitted the projected figures will be a result of how quickly the state begins to reopen the economy.

“Every day we delay reopening, the economic and health care costs will continue to mount,” Rizzo said. “At the end of the day, I think Long Island will be able to avoid that 9.5 percent figure by the end of 2021.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions have met all seven metrics required to begin phase one of the state’s phased reopening plan.

Cuomo said the three regions will begin their reopening on Friday.

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