State unlikely to recover jobs until 2015

A new study offers sobering news for the next governor: The state likely won’t recover jobs lost in the recession until after the 2014 gubernatorial election.

And the gulf between the richest and poorest workers has grown, giving Connecticut the largest gap between the bottom and top 10-percent of earners.

Those are among the findings released Friday by the Connecticut Voices for Children, a research-and-advocacy group, in its 10th annual assessment of the economy.

“The pain of this recession has been concentrated among low- and middle-wage workers, while the gains of the previous economic expansion were primarily enjoyed by high-wage workers,” said Joachim Hero, co-author of the study.

The group’s research found wide variations in how different races and income groups, employment sectors and geographic regions fared in a recession that has cost the state 103,400 jobs. The hardest-hit labor market was Stamford-Bridgeport.

“State averages don’t really tell us the story,” said Orlando Rodriguez, the other co-author.

Unemployment in Connect remains below the national jobless rate of 9.6 percent, but the state’s long-term unemployment rate last year was the 4th-worst in the nation.

Thirty-seven percent of the state’s unemployed were jobless for at least six months in 2009, tying with Rhode Island for the highest in New England. The national rate was 32 percent.

Especially hard-hit are the state’s older, well-educated workers. The unemployment rate is lower among workers 55 and older, but when they do lose a job, they have a harder time to find comparable work, Rodriguez said.

Forty-five percent of unemployed persons age 55 or older were jobless for at least six months in 2009.

From May 2006 to May 2009, middle-wage occupations – those with hourly wages between $18.52 and $24.18 — have seen the steepest job losses.

The top fifth of jobs by income – those paying more than $31.56 an hour – actually have increased by 13,450 jobs or 5.6 percent, while the middle fifth lost 14,020 jobs or 6.8 percent.

The recession has been relatively mild in Connecticut compared to other states, but the state slid into recession on after a long period of lackluster job-growth.

“Connecticut’s current level of employment, 1,620,100 jobs as of July 2010, is equal to levels seen in the late 1990s,” according to the study.

Only the health and education sectors have gained jobs since the start of the recession in March 2008, increasing by 4.6 percent. But both sectors have recently begun to shed jobs.

The state lost 103,400 jobs in the recession, hitting a low of 1.6 million jobs last December. The state has since recovered 12,000 jobs.

At the present rate of growth, it would take 4½ years to return to pre-recession levels, meaning whoever is elected governor in November is likely to struggle with economic issues for his entire term.