Newsday - February 13, 2010

Despite slow economy, some LI companies are hiring

It may be hard to believe, but some companies are still hiring on Long Island, even amid the worst job market since the 1990s.

It is a silver lining in a recessionary cloud that continues to hang over the area's employment market, which lost private-sector jobs at an annual rate of 21,800 in December as unemployment ticked up to 7 percent.

Though the latest job losses were the lowest in a year, they still reflect an economy in distress.

"This is a job market we have never seen before in the post-World War II era," said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association. "Never before in a recession have so many types of jobs been permanently lost."

The brightest sector continues to be health care, which has performed consistently well throughout the recession, which began here in August 2008. But hiring is also going on in some distressed sectors, such as construction and financial services, even though the categories continue to post losses overall. The advice from economists to job seekers has repeatedly been not to rule out distressed sectors in their job search.

Health care is hands down the leading job generator right now. From 2000 to mid-2009, employment in the health-care sector grew by 25 percent, made up almost 13 percent of Long Island's jobs and represented more than 13 percent of the Island's wages, said Kamer, quoting Labor Department data.

Though real estate is far less robust because it has been especially hard hit during the recession, there is a growing need for roofers and project managers as a result of demand for repair work and sewer and infrastructure projects, said Gary Huth, the State Labor Department's principal economist for Long Island.

James Vilardi, president of Bedford Construction Group Inc., based in Valley Stream, said he was planning to hire a construction manager and administrative employee in the first half of the year. He said he hopes the market begins "to stabilize through 2010 and maybe show some signs of life in 2011."

The financial-activities sector has also taken a blow, but companies are hiring financial advisers to meet increased demand from baby boomers and laid-off workers. The subcategory is projected to grow 26 percent from 2006 to 2016, according to the Labor Department.

The information-technology category, some of whose jobs fall in the higher-paying but job-losing professional and business-services sector, has seen job losses as well, but some companies are still hiring, particularly for project managers, who organize and manage complex projects such as Web development.

"Nobody is blowing a trumpet, but some companies are experiencing growth and need to hire management people," said Barbara Viola, who owns Viotech Solutions, a Farmingdale high-tech staffing company.

Green jobs, a budding industry that crosses many sectors, even construction, is a job-growth area, state data shows. Some of the jobs include installing energy-efficient appliances and solar panels, said Kamer.

"It's going to be a major growth area because the country is simply going to have to become more energy efficient," she added.

But she cautioned that the industry's job growth is still in its infancy.

"These are relatively new [jobs] and there aren't many of these," she said.

Not so with health care. Among the top five companies hiring on Long Island last month were a hospital and a medical-staffing company - Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip and ABC Employment Agency in Bellmore - according to the State Labor Department.

One of the biggest growth areas for health care has been among home health-care aides. And the Labor Department predicts that category of workers will increase 42 percent between 2006 and 2016.

"That's the aging of the population, and there will be large numbers of jobs for home-health aides," Kamer said.

In 15 years, All Island Dermatology has grown from three employees and one office to more than 50 staff members and two locations in Garden City and Glen Cove, said Dr. Joseph Onorato, the practice's owner. Within the past several months, he has hired four people.

"Although we are not recession-proof, we are pretty close," he said. "If people are sick, they need medical treatment."

With Keiko Morris and Emi Endo


here’s my “fifteen minutes of fame”…