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The Norwich-New London area saw no job increases in February and is the only labor market in Connecticut to have experienced year-over-year losses, according to the latest statewide jobs report released Thursday.
The report said jobs were flat in the region last month, but losses between this year and last totaled 1,800. Regionally, the New Haven and Bridgeport-Stamford areas gained jobs last month, while Waterbury and Hartford saw losses, and the state as a whole recorded a jobs increase of only 800.
Still, the slight rise in Connecticut job numbers in February led an analyst from the state Department of Labor to suspect that a surprising decline of more than 10,000 jobs between December and January was largely the result of the cold and snowy weather.
"February's job report seemed to confirm that weather was partly responsible for January's sharp decline as we saw recovery in several of the industries that had stumbled," Andy Condon, director of the Labor Department's Office of Research, said in a statement.
The state report showed the private sector had a strong rebound, boosting jobs by 2,700.
Statewide, the unemployment rate continued to decline, dropping two-tenths of a point to 7 percent in February. A year ago, the rate was 7.9 percent.
The Labor Department said the civilian labor force rose by nearly 6,000 last month, and the number of unemployed Connecticut residents fell by more than 2,600. The number of jobless residents has declined by 17,500 since February of last year, the agency added.
"The continued decline in Connecticut's unemployment rate, driven by growing household employment, signals that we continue on the path of job recovery," Condon said.
Economist Don Klepper-Smith of DataCore Partners in New Haven agreed that the big job losses in January — adjusted this month from a previously reported hit of 10,400 to an even more disturbing 10,900 — was likely an anomaly.
"I fully expect to see a moderate rebound of sorts when we get numbers for March, April and May," he said in a note to clients. "I think we'll still see modest job gains in the 12,000-14,000 range on an average annual basis."
Sectors experiencing job losses in February included manufacturing and government, both off by 1,900. Positive reports came from the professional and businesss services area, which added 3,000 jobs last month, and construction and mining, up 1,500.
Joe Brennan, senior vice president of public policy for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the new job numbers offered some hope for economic improvement but said there were still troubling trends revealed.
"Importantly, in the manufacturing sector — critical to Connecticut's economy — we saw a loss of almost 2,000 jobs in February," Brennan said in a statement. "Connecticut has only recovered about 50 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession, so while we did see some progress in February, we still have a long way to go on the job front."
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy did issue a statement about the new job numbers, instead choosing to release a report outlining plans to spend $300 million over the next decade to fix up more than 13,800 units of affordable housing.
Renovations will be undertaken locally at more than a dozen housing complexes, including Harry Schwartz Manor, Eastwood Court, Hillside Apartments, Hillside Terrace, J.F. Kennedy Apartments, Melrose Park, Sunset Park, Rosewood Manor, Rosewood Manor Ext. and St. Jude Common in Norwich as well as the George Washington Carver Building and Godon and Riozzi courts in New London.
Other projects will be undertaken in Ledyard at King's Corner Manor, Old Lyme at Rye Field Manor, Preston at Lincoln Park, Montville at Freedom Village and Independence Village, Groton at Pequot Village and Grasso Gardens and Griswold at Ashland Manor and McCluggage Manor.
"Housing is a key component of our success to get Connecticut moving again, serving as an economic driver that will build strong neighborhoods, attract businesses, create jobs, and offer residents an attractive place to work and live," said Governor Malloy. "We are making the most significant commitment the state has made to affordable housing in decades."
The report can be found at the following link:
The main employment swings statewide, by job sector:
+3,000: Professional, business services
+1,500: Construction and mining
+600: Leisure and hospitality
-500: Financial activities
Source: CT Dept. of Labor