Connecticut jobless rate stays stuck at 8 percent

Connecticut's unemployment rate stayed at 8.0 percent in March, unchanged from the previous month, according to preliminary estimates released Thursday by the state Department of Labor's Office of Research.

Employers added 2,600 workers to nonfarm payrolls, as the state restored some of the 5,700 jobs that were lost in February, the department said. Some of February's job loss was attributable to a blizzard that struck early in the month. Over the first three months of the year, nonfarm employment has risen 0.3 percent.

The employment numbers are produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"March employment numbers confirm that the steep February job decline was due to storm-related issues," Andy Condon, director of the Office of Research, said in a statement. "Our three-month moving average of payroll job estimates indicates that Connecticut has continued on a path of modest job growth throughout the first quarter of this year."

Pete Gioia, an economist with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, called the three-month average "a positive trend."

But, he said, "it's still at a very weak rate." Since March 2012, Connecticut has added only 1,000 jobs, which shows that "a lot of the monthly figures are so volatile, it's hard to track what's going on ...," he said.

Four of 10 industry supersectors experienced year-over-year job increases in March, led by leisure & hospitality, which added 4,800 jobs, a 3.4 percent gain. Financial activities experienced the steepest decline, losing 2,300 jobs, a 1.7 percent drop-off.

Of the state's six major labor market areas, or LMAs, only one, the Norwich-New London area, lost jobs in March compared to the same month a year earlier. It lost 400 jobs, a decline of 0.3 percent. The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk LMA added 1,200 jobs, or 0.3 percent, the most of any LMA.

Don Klepper-Smith, an economist and researcher with New Haven-based DataCore Partners LLP, called March's numbers "less than encouraging.

"Factoring in the collective body of data we now have, I would say the performance of the Connecticut labor markets (in 2013) thus far is very disappointing and well below expectations."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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