Tough recovery

The annual Labor Day weekend report from the Connecticut Voice for Children, the New Haven-based advocacy group, is discouraging but not surprising. It shows the gap between poor and rich continues to widen in the state. Manufacturing jobs, vital to maintaining a vigorous middle class, dwindle, while job growth takes place in lower-paying fields.

These troubling trends, exacerbated by the Great Recession, will not be reversed quickly or easily, but the silver lining is that the state has taken steps of late in the right direction.

Workers in the top 10 percent of earners managed an hourly rate rise from $46.10 to $47.87 from 2008 to 2011. In contrast, the state's median hourly wage dropped from $20.61 to $20.29 over that period, after adjusting for inflation. Connecticut had 74,000 fewer jobs in 2011 than it had in 2007 and the number of people settling for part-time work increased.

Most troubling, perhaps, was the state shedding 27,448 manufacturing jobs between 2006 and 2011, or 14 percent. Health services jobs grew 11 percent, with the strongest growth in lower paying positions, and food services jobs grew by 4 percent (the average food service worker is only making $358 weekly).

Those who cheer for reducing the size of government will take solace, we suppose, in public sector jobs declining for the third state year, but we await the predicted shifting of money and jobs to the private sector. Connecticut's jobless rate sits at 8.5 percent, persistently high.

Unemployment among Hispanics and blacks, 17.8 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively, as of 2011, remains far higher than for whites, a statistic directly correlated with poverty figures.

Education provides the best chance of breaking that cycle, and the education reform package with its emphasis on improving struggling urban schools and boosting early childhood education is the state's most aggressive attempt to address the challenge. Any success, however, will be slow.

State investment in the bioscience industry and its small business initiatives also hold out hope for reversing the troubling job trends. Also vitally important will be reducing the state's high energy prices.

Voters will judge the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in large measure by the success or failure of its job-creation efforts.

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