Molloy Economics Professor Says COVID-19 Still Looms as a Threat to the Labor Market

By Victor Ocasio - Newsday

Last week, 11,360 Long Islanders filed new jobless claims, up almost 15% from the 9,886 claims filed the week before, according to New York Department of Labor data released Thursday.

While the recent numbers show an uptick, last week's figures are still well below the 24,117 new claims that had been reported three weeks ago, and much lower than the 59,526 claims filed the week of April 11, the local peak for new unemployment claims.

In total, 361,359 Long Islanders have filed unemployment claims over the last 12 weeks of the COVID-19 economic shutdown. The most recent claims data is for the week ended June 6.

More than 2.6 million New Yorkers have filed for jobless aid since the pandemic hit the state in March.

Last week was the second in a row that Long Island reported new jobless claims below the 20,000 mark that had prevailed for much of the coronavirus crisis.

"The evidence from Long Island is encouraging," said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group. "As the economy is slowly reopening we're seeing a drop in job loss."

But, while Long Island and the state overall continue to see promising trends in the number of new unemployment claims, Rizzo said it's important to look at the growing number of COVID-19 cases in other large states throughout the country, like Texas, Arizona and Florida.

"A number of states are experiencing an uptick in coronavirus cases. That raises some concerns about what will happen down the line," he said. "Even if New York observes a more cautious reopening ... people will travel, and state economies are interdependent."

Despite the promising news locally, when looking at the containment of the virus in other states, Rizzo said he thinks "we have some rough sledding ahead of us."

Steven Kent, economics professor at Molloy College and a former Goldman Sachs analyst, described the recent week's jobless claim numbers as "less bad than it's been the past few weeks, but they are still concerning or bad results."

Additionally, Kent said that the recent figures, while better than the "dramatically larger" figures from a few weeks ago, aren't a solid indication of the health of the labor market going forward.

"I don't think these are a tell as to how the rest of year is going to go," he said. "There is a concern that there may be some white-collar layoffs as we move further and further along in the recession.

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