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State makes slow but steady job gains

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published March 16. 2013 4:00AM

Connecticut's rate of job recovery since the Great Recession ended isn't great, but it's not nearly as bad as previous numbers implied, according to a report released Friday by the state Department of Labor.

The new numbers, based on revised figures from the U.S. Labor Department, show an average monthly jobs gain of 15,400 last year compared with a year earlier, much higher than previously estimated. Connecticut has now regained more than 43 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession, much better than indicated in previous figures showing a recovery rate of less than 25 percent.

Statistics that had shown an environment of declining jobs numbers in the latter half of last year now have been revised to indicate a modest increase in employment. And unemployment fell a tenth of a point in January compared with a month earlier, landing at 8.1 percent, though the Norwich-New London region maintains a higher 9 percent jobless rate.

"Job gains in January, along with a continuing decline in Connecticut's unemployment rate, are good news," said Andy Condon, director of research for the state Labor Department, in a statement. "While the job recovery rate remains too slow to drive down our unemployment rate to more acceptable levels, it is much more in line with national trends (thanks to the revised figures)."

In a conference call, Condon also noted that previous estimates of a rapidly shrinking labor pool in Connecticut also had been vastly overstated, according to the latest numbers. Previous statistics had shown a one-year decline of an astonishing 45,000 to 50,000 workers in Connecticut over the year - the most of any state in the union - but new figures place the number closer to 21,000.

Condon called the reduced workforce numbers "still significant," though he didn't know how Connecticut ranked nationwide in terms of a shrinking labor pool.

The state gained 4,700 jobs in January, including 200 in the Norwich-New London area, according to the new numbers.

But the region reported a loss of 1,100 jobs between January 2012 and the same month this year, the numbers show. It was the highest job-loss statistic from any region in the state.

Condon said the region's reliance on shrinking industries such as the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos has held back job growth.

"We don't see that turning around yet," he said.

Condon wouldn't release specific information about casino employment, saying private businesses' job numbers are confidential. But statewide jobs in the government sector, which includes casino employment, fell by 1,500 in January compared with a year earlier and are now 1,800 less than they were a year ago.

The report showed that private-sector jobs grew 6,200 statewide during January and are now 9,700 more than a year ago.

But an independent economist, Don Klepper-Smith of DataCore Partners, noted that the state is still lagging the rest of the nation in terms of job recoveries.

"We're still not creating jobs fast enough in Connecticut," Condon agreed.

l.howard@theday.com

MORE

January employment ups and downs in Connecticut

UP:
Professional and business services
2,900
Leisure and hospitality 1,500
Trade, transportation, utilities 1,200
Construction and mining 700
Other services 500
Financial activities 200

DOWN:
Government
1,500
Education and health services 500

Source: Connecticut Department of Labor

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