State gained 4,000 jobs in February

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In what is likely to be the most optimistic statewide labor report for some time, the Connecticut Department of Labor reported Thursday a net job gain of 4,000 last month compared to January, and an unemployment rate below 4%.

The February jobs report, likely the last one this year unaffected by expected job losses created by the current coronavirus pandemic, noted that 13,300 jobs have been added in the state over the past year. This includes a gain of 3,300 in January that was adjusted up by 700 from estimates provided in February.

The unemployment rate in February was 3.8%, not much of a change from January.

"This was the sixth month in a row of payroll job growth," Andy Condon, director of the Office of Research at the state Labor Department, said in a release. "Unfortunately, with the impact of the spread of the COVID-19 virus we can expect payroll jobs to decline as a result of sharply increased layoffs and furloughs."

Among other issues, the COVID-19 pandemic has led the state to close all nonessential businesses. Already, U.S. jobless rates have started climbing as industries such as restaurants, hair salons and fitness facilities have largely been forced to close.

In the state labor report for February, though, eight of the 10 major economic sectors in the state showed increased employment, led by the leisure and hospitality industries with a 2,200 net job increase. Education and health services added 1,800 new positions, manufacturing, 900, and government, 700, many of them related to new census jobs.

The only down sectors were trade, transportation and utilities, which shed 2,300 positions, and professional and business services, which dropped by 800 jobs.

Locally, the Norwich-New London-Westerly labor market saw a decrease of 200 jobs. The New Haven area saw the state's biggest increases, adding 1,800 positions, while Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk saw slippage of 1,100 jobs.

Compared with last year at the same time, workers in the state's private sector were making nearly 3% more an hour in February, according to the report.

l.howard@theday.com

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