Mineola - "For much of the last two decades, Nassau County has under-performed the nation in job gains, posting one of the lowest growth rates of any county in the United States," according to a report issued by the Office of Nassau County Comptroller Howard S. Weitzman.
The report, entitled "Nassau County's Competitive Position and its Long-Term Employment Trends: An Analytical Review Based on Data from 1980-2000," reveals that while the county's employment base expanded by 15.5 percent (or 80,250 jobs) between 1980 and 2000, the nation posted a gain of 31.7 percent during those two decades. "If the county's economic pace had kept up with the nation's, an additional 83,982 jobs would have been created in Nassau," writes Weitzman.
The county comptroller's report attributes the relatively poor performance of the county's economy largely to its failure to remain economically competitive with other localities, noting that local factors impeded the growth of the trade service and manufacturing sectors. Rather than attempting to measure the impact of specific local factors on the economy, the report aims to isolate the county's competitive position from the impact of national trends and the industrial mix in analyzing employment trends during the period studied, using a conceptual tool known as shift-share analysis.
Although Nassau County's relatively high concentration of high-growth industries - particularly in the finance, insurance, real estate and service sectors - resulted in the creation of 61,686 jobs, local factors such as high energy and labor costs, a relatively high tax burden and inadequate infrastructure may have impeded the creation of more jobs in the county during the time period studies, according to the report.
"Employment in Nassau County reached a peak of 604,028 jobs in 1988," the report states, noting that job growth in the county bested the nation's from 1983 to 1988. The county entered a long and protracted recession in the early 1990s, following the national recession and the flight from Long Island of much of the aviation industry that was its economic engine. Although the county's employment has rebounded since then, recouping 90.6 percent of the 58,316 jobs that were lost between 1988 and 1992, the county has yet to return to its peak employment level despite gaining jobs at a rate comparable to that of the nation between 1992 and 2000.
"Like most economies in transition," the report notes, "Nassau County has experienced some transformations during the last 20 years. Its manufacturing base has shrunk, triggered in part by major cutbacks in national defense spending. In relative terms, manufacturing jobs comprised only 6.7 percent of the county's employment in 2000; that is down from 16.5 percent in 1980," Weitzman's report states. The wholesale and retail (trade) sector has exhibited some weaknesses in recent years, while growing sectors include business and financial services, construction and transportation. "The county's comparative advantage in financial services stems from its proximity to New York City, the world's financial capital," states Weitzman.
"During the last two decades, Nassau County has successfully diversified its economic base from a dependence on manufacturing to the service sector, including financial and professional services. The county is now fortunate to have a large share of its employment base in the nation's fast-growing industries. As these industries prosper, Nassau County will reap the benefits."
However, Weitzman's report cautions that "unless the county addresses many of the local competitive factors that impeded its growth and development over the last two decades, its economic potential will be limited." Since many of these factors are influenced by actions taken by state and local government officials, Weitzman maintains that coordinating state and local initiatives is imperative.
"These initiatives must also take into account budgetary constraints faced by both the state and the county," writes Weitzman, acknowledging that initiatives to address the county's high tax burden and aging infrastructure will inevitably be costly and may put contradictory demands on public resources. As an example, he notes that reducing the sales tax rate to make the county tax-competitive will leave fewer resources available for infrastructure investment.
"Nonetheless, the county must free up resources for economic development," concludes Weitzman. "The key to solving Nassau County's budgetary difficulties is economic growth and prosperity that will generate tax revenues necessary to, not only balance its books, but also to improve the county's physical and human infrastructure and meet its obligations to its neediest residents."