Good news, bad news on jobs in state

A Connecticut jobs report released Friday brought widely divergent reactions.

The report released by the state Department of Labor showed a more than 10,000 decline in Connecticut employment in January, which prompted a leading business group to brand it as "some of the worst news we've seen in quite some time."

But the report also noted that jobs counters had revised last year's employment totals in Connecticut upward by more than 12,000 from what had been previously reported, allowing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to trumpet state job growth in 2013 as "substantially beyond expectation."

Meanwhile, the Norwich-New London labor market continues to show signs of stress, recording a decline of 800 jobs between December and January as well as a 1,700 slump compared with the same month last year. The region had the highest year-over-year decline in jobs of any labor market in the state during January, and at 8 percent also has one of Connecticut's highest unemployment rates.

Overall, Connecticut's unemployment rate continues to fall, down another two-tenths of a point in January to 7.2 percent. At this point last year, the jobless rate statewide was 8 percent.

"Newly benchmarked employment statistics reaffirm the consistent job growth in the state that brought down the unemployment rate in 2013," Andy Condon, director of the state Department of Labor's Office of Research, said in a statement.

Condon based his statement on newly released revisions by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that Connecticut hit a post-recession high of 1,663,500 jobs in December, which put it almost exactly halfway to full employment recovery. The number was 12,300 higher than previous estimates had indicated, but Connecticut's rebound is still substantially behind the 90 percent job-recovery rate for the United States as a whole.

"The annual restatement of labor figures is yet another sign that we are making progress in turning our economy around," Malloy said in statement. "With 53,000 private sector jobs created through the end of last year, we are experiencing one of the best periods of growth that Connecticut has seen in decades."

The growth did not continue into January, however. Employment statewide dropped by 10,400 positions compared with December's figures, a decline that the Labor Department blamed on cold and snowy weather.

"The steep decline in January payroll jobs remains a concern," Condon said. "If, as we suspect, January's decline was largely due to weather conditions we should see growth trends return in future months."

Others were not quite so optimistic.

Pete Gioia, an economist and vice president at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the report contained "very negative data." He pointed out that the state reported job losses in all but two of the main employment sectors in January.

"This is telling us of two surveys in one month where the job market is going in different directions," Gioia said in a statement. "So we really have, perhaps, more questions raised than answered."

"It surely does not represent the best of starts for the year," said economist Don Klepper-Smith of DataCore Partners in New Haven, who headed the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors under the Republican Rell administration.

But Klepper-Smith said he expected the jobs trend would shift upward after February, with moderate gains posted by the end of this year.

l.howard@theday.com

Staff writer Johanna Somers contributed to this report.

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