State's job numbers for December show improvement

Connecticut’s employment outlook brightened Monday with the state Department of Labor reporting that the state added 6,000 net jobs last month, all in the private sector, and overall grew by 7,700 jobs in 2017.

“This is the first good news we’ve gotten in a long while,” Pete Gioia, an economist for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said.

In addition to the December job gain, the number of jobs lost in November, previously estimated to be 3,500, was revised downward to 1,800 jobs lost.

“December job growth ended the year on a better note than in previous months,” Andy Condon, director of the labor department’s Office of Research, said in a statement. “Preliminary data indicate that Connecticut grew 7,700 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis and 6,200 jobs on an average annual basis. This is actually better than the 5,000 average annual growth seen in 2016.”

Condon cautioned that the 2017 data are still subject to revision by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“If those numbers hold up when the final report comes out in March, it will be a stark change to where we ended up in 2016, losing 200 jobs,” Gioia said.

He noted that the preliminary statistics show the state’s manufacturing sector added 4,100 jobs in 2017, only the third time the sector posted annual gains in the last 30 years.

The state’s unemployment rate remained at 4.6 percent in December, unchanged from the previous month. Nationally, the unemployment rate last month was 4.1 percent.

In an online newsletter, Don Klepper-Smith, an economist for DataCore Partners LLC, said the state’s December job numbers represented “a nice technical bounce” and “a welcome reprieve, given job losses in four of the last six months."

“However, nothing has fundamentally changed with the state's labor markets,” Klepper-Smith said. “The broad aggregate comprehensive data indicate that Connecticut’s labor markets are still soft, losing 7,600 jobs since June 2017 with Connecticut being the only New England state that has yet to realize full job recovery! That said, we’re still lying at the edge of recession in my professional opinion.”

The state labor department reported that five of the 10 major industry sectors gained jobs in December, led by professional and business service, which added 2,700 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities — a sector that includes retail, which showed “surprising strength” — added 2,600 jobs. Manufacturing added 2,000 jobs, and leisure and hospitality, which reversed a downward trend, showed a gain of 1,600 jobs. Education and health services added 400 jobs.

While employment in the government sector was unchanged, the “other services,” construction and mining, financial activities and information sectors lost jobs in the month. 

Three of the state’s six Labor Market Areas experienced job gains last month, led by the Hartford area, which added 1,400 new jobs, and the Norwich-New London-Westerly area, which added 500 jobs.

In the private sector, average hourly earnings in December were estimated at $31, up from $30.66 the previous December.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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