State labor market bounced back in May, added 4,100 jobs

After two months of sharp employment declines, Connecticut added an estimated 4,100 jobs in May, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The gains partially were offset by revised numbers for April, during which an estimated 1,900 jobs were lost — 500 more than previously reported. Some 3,500 jobs were lost in March.

Connecticut's unemployment rate remained at 4.5 percent in May, unchanged from the previous month and down two-tenths of a percentage point from a year ago. Nationally, May's jobless rate was 3.8 percent, down from 3.9 percent in April.

"May's increase of 4,100 jobs overcame most of the decline we saw in March and April," Andy Condon, director of the labor department's Office of Research, said in a statement. "There was surprising strength in retail trade and a good showing for financial activities, both of which are now ahead of last year's pace."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hailed the monthly labor report soon after its release.

"The investments and efforts we have made to retain and grow private sector jobs while simultaneously shrinking the size of government are paying off," he said in a statement. "Today's job numbers demonstrate that Connecticut has more private sector jobs than we did before the Great Recession. It also reflects the fact that government is smaller today than when I took office — just as I promised to do eight years ago."

Excluding higher education, the state workforce is 13 percent smaller today than when Malloy took office in 2011, the governor's office said.

Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research for DataCore Partners, characterized the May jobs report as "a positive step in the right direction" and "pretty encouraging."

"My strong sense is that employers will continue to add jobs through the balance of 2018, but only on a selective basis where they can add to bottom line productivity or profitability," Klepper-Smith wrote in his online newsletter. "The May data for CT represents a (year-over-year) gain of 11,500 jobs, or 0.7 percent. CT's labor markets still continue to underperform in the larger context. In a few words: 'A labor market that is moving sideways more than anything else.'"

The labor department reported that private sector employment grew by 4,300 jobs in May while the government "supersector" — all federal, state and local employment, including public higher education and Native American casino employment on tribal land — lost 200 positions.

Overall, five of the 10 major industry sectors gained employment while four declined. Manufacturing employment was unchanged. The trade, transportation and utilities sector added 2,600 jobs, the most of any sector.

Five of the state's six Labor Market Areas posted job gains in May, led by the Harford area, which added 900 new positions. The Norwich-New London-Westerly area added 600 jobs.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com 

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