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New Jobs Report: While Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.6%, Pandemic Jobs Not Fully Recovered

As Connecticut’s unemployment rate reached a new low of 3.6% since September 2019, the state has still not yet fully recovered the jobs lost during the March-April 2020 COVID shutdown. Overall, recovery is at 98.2%, while the private sector is “just 100 jobs shy of full recovery at  99.9%;  however, more trouble may be on the horizon for Connecticut’s job market. 

In the Department of Labor’s (DOL) July Jobs Report, Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo expressed that the economic indicators show signs of a healthy economy, as evidenced by “a low unemployment rate, overall yearly job growth, and a continued low unemployment weekly filing rate.” Furthermore, he added that the state’s job market has potential for growth and opportunity: “Employers have about 90,000 jobs available in the state — it’s a good economic climate for job seekers with employers hiring for a wide variety of jobs and skill levels.” 

The report further concluded that state employers added 2,900 jobs, bringing the total yearly gains to 19,100; however, the previous month’s numbers were revised up by 2,100 to a 2,500 decline.   

As for specific industry supersectors, five of the ten have experienced growth; Education & Health Services (+3,000), Construction & Mining (+1,400), Financial Activities (+600), Leisure & Hospitality (+100), and Other Services (+100). However, the Government supersector has remained consistent — with zero percent change. The largest job losses came from Administrative/Support Services and Manufacturing, which lost 1,600 and 700 jobs, respectively.  

According to CT DOL Office of Research director Patrick Flaherty, these labor market trends seem mostly positive. 

“In Connecticut, seven sectors are now at or above pre-pandemic job levels,” Flaherty said. “While the Health Care sector remains below pre-pandemic job levels due to nursing homes, the entire sector is back in job creation mode, a good sign for the economy.”  

However, he acknowledges that recent workplace shifts have certainly made an impact on other industries, saying, “Virtual meeting technology has driven what may be a permanent shift away from corporate travel, a change impacting the Accommodations and Food Services sector.” 

There has been some variance in job trends across the Connecticut Labor Market Areas (CT LMAs) with Hartford — the largest LMA — leading with 1,200 new jobs and New Haven following with 1,200 jobs. The Danbury LMA was the worst performer, with a loss of 200 positions, and the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk LMA wasn’t much better, with jobs being unchanged. However, the overall job growth numbers seem to be indicative of a slow but clear job recovery in Connecticut.  

Connecticut Business & Industry Association’s (CBIA) President and CEO Chris DiPentima expressed optimism about the July report, highlighting significant improvements in various industries. In an Aug. 19 press release, DiPentima remarked he was “encouraged to see the rebound in construction jobs after the previous month’s losses, along with solid growth in trade, transportation, and utilities, manufacturing, professional and business services, and educational and health services.” 

He also noted that “July has historically been a strong month for job it’s critical that we sustain this momentum as the state continues its slow recovery from the pandemic.” 

Yet this “momentum” may slow with four companies announcing layoffs in the next few months. 

The most notable is CVS Health which will begin laying off 521 Aetna employees starting Oct. 21, 2023, according to the Worker Adjustment and Retaining Notification (WARN). Three other companies notified CT OL about layoffs in August, including WayForth, Bioxcel Therapeutics and Centerra. Meanwhile, Frontier Communications is speculated to move its corporate headquarters — and hundreds of jobs — out of Connecticut after 77 years in Stamford and Norwalk.  

If the speculations regarding Frontier are well-founded, the company will join the corporate exodus, which most recently included LEGO. In the past twenty years, Aetna, General Electric, Edible Arrangements, United Technologies/Raytheon, Stag Arms and Alexion Pharmaceuticals have also fled.  

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