district profile
Long Island (Nassau-Suffolk Metro Division)

Nassau and Suffolk Counties

Long Island is home to 2.8 million people distributed evenly between its two counties: Nassau and Suffolk. Both counties are relatively affluent and well educated. Long Island has a sizable industry base, which is heavily concentrated in high-tech manufacturing-particularly in Suffolk County. Still, data on commuting patterns suggest that Long Island's economy, and especially Nassau County's, is closely linked with New York City's.

Manufacturing employment, which had fallen sharply in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the defense industry shrank, leveled off in the mid- to late-1990s, helped by high-tech and bio-tech startups. This shift from defense to high-tech industries reflected both local economic development incentives in the high-tech area and the presence of several major research labs. Since 2000, manufacturing employment has fallen by roughly a third, though most of the decline has been in Nassau County. Computer and electronic products manufacturing remains a key industry in Suffolk County. Long Island was hit hard by the 2008-09 recession. Employment fell by slightly over 4 percent—a bit steeper than statewide but milder than for the nation as a whole.

Recent Trends
During the early stages of the recovery, Long Island closely tracked the nation in job growth. Thus far in 2013, however, job growth has been a bit stronger than average on Long Island, running between 2-3 percent. While this area's economy was hard-hit by Sandy in the final two months of 2012, it bounced back quickly; in fact, some of the strongest job growth in 2013 has come in sectors like construction and administrative, waste and remedial services—sectors that were likely buoyed by recovery and reconstruction efforts after the storm. However, other sectors—most notably manufacturing—have seen steepening job losses in 2013. And although construction employment has picked up noticeably, Long Island's housing market has lagged. Home prices have recovered only modestly in Suffolk County and barely at all in Nassau; prices remain roughly 20 percent below their 2006 peak levels in both counties.

Nassau County
Bordering on New York City, Nassau is by far the more urban county, and comprises a blend of urban and suburban communities. With 4,672 residents per square mile, Nassau is New York State's most densely populated county outside New York City. The county’s population barely increased in the last decade, growing by less than ½ percent from 2000 to 2010, well below the 5 percent pace seen during the 1990s. One in five residents is foreign born, and nearly half of that group is from Latin America. Nassau's population is relatively affluent and well-educated. Two out of five adults over age 25 hold college degrees and median household income was $94,000 in 2009. An extraordinary 83 percent of homes are owner-occupied, compared with 67 percent nationwide; the median value of these homes was estimated at $475,500, which is roughly 55 percent above the statewide median and more than two and a half times the national figure.

Nassau County's industrial profile is heavily weighted toward wholesale and retail trade. There is a relatively low incidence of manufacturing industries across the board. While commuting data from the 2010 Census is not yet available, based on the 2000 Census, 58 percent of all employed residents worked within the county, and a substantial 32 percent commuted to New York City; only 8 percent commuted to neighboring Suffolk County. Of those who worked in Nassau, a sizable 16 percent "reverse" commuted from New York City, mostly Queens.

Suffolk County 
Suffolk County's landscape is fairly diverse, with the westernmost portion, like Nassau County, characterized by a mix of urban and suburban areas, and the eastern part somewhat more rural. Overall, there are nearly 1,640 residents per square mile. The population grew by 5.2 percent between 2000 and 2010—roughly half the national rate, but still more than double the statewide average. Suffolk County's population is relatively affluent and educational attainment is moderately above the national average. Median household income was roughly $85,000 in 2009—nearly two-thirds above the national median and 50 percent above the statewide figure. Slightly over 31 percent of adults over the age of 25 hold college degrees—the same as for the state as a whole but above the nationwide average of 27 percent. Almost 15 percent of the county’s population is foreign born, or slightly more than for the nation as a whole, and slightly more than half those foreign-born are from Latin America. Similar to Nassau County, 82 percent of homes are owner-occupied and the median value of these homes was estimated at $430,000, based on data from 2007-09, or a third above the statewide median.

Suffolk County also has a high concentration of wholesale and retail trade industries. However, unlike Nassau County, Suffolk also has a relatively high concentration of manufacturing—particularly computers and electronic products. The presence of Brookhaven National Laboratory, SUNY Stony Brook, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory provide a strong foundation for Suffolk County’s high tech cluster.

While commuting data from the 2010 Census is not yet available, based on the 2000 Census, 74 percent of all employed residents worked in the county and another 14 percent worked in neighboring Nassau; almost all the remaining 12 percent worked in New York City. A relatively small proportion of Suffolk's work force "reverse" commuted in—9 percent commuted from Nassau and just 3 percent commute from New York City (again, mostly Queens).

1Trends in home prices referred to here are all based on repeat-sales indexes from CoreLogic.

  Long Island Metro Division*: selected characteristics
    Population in 2010 % of 2010 Population that is1  
  Total Population1 % Change from 20001 per Sq. Mile2 Black Hispanic Asian  
  Long Island Metro Division 2,832,882   2.9   2363   9.2   15.6   5.4  
    Nassau 1,339,532   0.4   4672   11.1   14.6   7.6  
    Suffolk 1,493,350   5.2   1637   7.4   16.5   3.4  
  New York State 19,378,102   2.1   410   15.9   17.6   7.3  
  USA 308,745,538   9.7   87   12.6   16.3   4.8  

  Long Island Metro Division*: selected characteristics
    Median % of Homes % of Adults with5  
  Household Income3 Home Value4 Owner Occupied4 College Degrees HS Degrees  
  Long Island Metro Division $88,123   $463,600   82.7   35.6   89.3  
    Nassau $93,696   $494,000   83.2   40.5   89.5  
    Suffolk $85,196   $430,600   82.2   31.3   89.1  
  New York State $54,659   $310,100   55.4   31.8   84.2  
  USA $50,221   $191,900   66.4   27.5   84.6  
* Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) are metro areas defined by the Office of Management and Budget for use by federal statistical agencies.
1 Source: US Bureau of the Census, decennial Census of Population.
2 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population; land area data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s geographic database (TIGER® database) for Census 2000.
3 Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 2009 (1-year estimates)

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 2007-09 (3-year estimates)


Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 2006-08 (3-year estimates)

September 2012