In reversal of fortune, state reports 2,000 jobs lost in March

After a string of monthly job gains, Connecticut lost an estimated 2,000 jobs in March, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday, citing results of a payroll survey administered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Year over year, nonagricultural employment in the state was up by 7,800 jobs.

“March’s decline of 2,000 jobs was the first down month the state has seen since last October,” Andy Condon, director of the department’s Office of Research, said in a statement. “The largest declines were in retail trade and accommodations and food services, both of which may have been adversely affected by the nor’easters last month.”

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in March, down one-tenth of a percentage point from February, the department reported.

The national unemployment rate is 4.1 percent.

“While this is only the first time since October we have had a job loss in the monthly reports, the labor force is shrinking at a time when we need people,” Pete Gioia, an economist with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said in a statement.

Gioia noted that Connecticut has recovered 80 percent of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession, which stretched from March 2008 to February 2010, the lowest recovery rate of the six New England states.

In his online newsletter, Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research for DataCore Partners, said the latest employment figures were evidence of “an economy moving sideways more than anything else.”

According to the Labor Department, private sector employment fell by 1,900 jobs in March while the government “supersector,” which comprises all federal, state and local government employment, including public higher education and casino jobs on tribal land, lost 100 jobs. Professional and business services accounted for a net increase of 700 new jobs while the construction/mining and education and health services categories each added 500 jobs.

On the down side, trade, transportation and utilities lost 1,500 jobs in March and leisure and hospitality dropped 1,300 jobs. Both sectors may have felt the impact of bad weather, according to the labor department, which said the survey reference week included one of the month’s three nor’easters.

Among the state’s six Labor Market Areas, two posted job gains in the month. The Hartford area added 600 new jobs while the Danbury area was up by 200 jobs. The Norwich-New London-Westerly area lost 200 jobs in the month.

During the month, weekly pay in the private sector averaged $1,057.61, up $24.88, or 2.4 percent, from a year ago.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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