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Hartford - Political foes of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy contend that Connecticut lags behind most states when it comes to creating a hospitable business climate.
The governor sees things quite differently.
At a ceremony this week celebrating the third anniversary of the state's paid sick leave law, Malloy said job growth in Connecticut is improving. He specifically cited the franchise and "limited service" restaurant sector, whose members had complained during debate over paid sick leave that the legislation would be one more financial burden they'd have to bear.
Malloy signed the legislation into law three years ago, requiring the service industry to provide paid sick leave to employees.
"Some of the industries that have grown the most are industries impacted by this legislation," Malloy said. "That indicates that we're doing pretty well."
Whether Connecticut has successfully shed a reputation of being unfriendly to business is a key issue in this year's general election. Both of Malloy's Republican challengers, GOP-endorsed candidate Tom Foley and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, claim Malloy has not done enough to help businesses grow jobs. They say he has worsened the business climate by increasing taxes and backing legislation like mandatory paid sick leave law.
On the campaign trail, the Republican candidates point to various reports from groups that have ranked Connecticut at the bottom of the 50 states for business friendliness.
Back in April, when a report from a conservative group listed Connecticut 44th in a national economic ranking, Andrew Markowski, Connecticut director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said, "It's not a coincidence that we have one of the worst reputations in the country for business and we have one of the slowest growing economies."
"Is it just paid sick leave? Probably not. But it is a combination of many things," he said of the state's business climate. "Small businesses are constantly wondering, 'When is the next shoe going to drop?"'
But Malloy contends things are improving, albeit slower than he would like.
"The bottom line is, employment is up by 55,000 people since I took office. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in five years," he said. "Things are getting better. Who feels it and how you feel it is a personal feeling. If you didn't get one of those 55,000 jobs, it didn't change your life and we certainly understand it."
"We need to see this economy grow more jobs," Malloy added. "And that's what we work on every single day."
State Department of Labor statistics indicate there has been a growth of 55,000 jobs in seasonally adjusted private sector employment, between December 2010 and May 2014. But the state has not fully recovered the job losses from the recession. The department's most recent report on the labor market shows the state has recovered 71,600 positions, or 60.1 percent of the 119,100 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs that were lost between March 2008 and February 2010.
The state's jobs recovery is now 51 months old and has been averaging about 1,404 jobs per month overall since February 2010, according to the Labor Department report.