CT unemployment hits seven-year low of 5.4%

Connecticut gained 4,100 jobs in July as the unemployment rate fell to a seven-year low of 5.4 percent, marking three consecutive months of job growth that have brought the state’s unemployment rate close to the U.S. average of 5.3 percent.

Average private-sector weekly pay was $958.91, up 2 percent over a year ago. The increase represents a gain in buying power, since the consumer price index rose by just two-tenths of a percent.

The report released Thursday by the Connecticut Department of Labor was one of the rosiest since the start of the state’s slow recovery from the great recession of 2008. The unemployment rate hasn’t been as low as 5.4 percent since May 2008.

“This is good news – our state should recognize the progress we’re making,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement. “Jobs are dramatically up, the unemployment rate is significantly down, and we’re on track to reach private sector job levels that the state hasn’t seen since before the Great Recession.”

Overall, the state now has regained 102,000 jobs, or 85.7 percent of the 119,000 seasonally adjusted positions lost from March 2008 to February 2010, when the recovery began. The private sector now has recovered 97 percent of the 111,600 jobs it lost.

“Connecticut is certainly recovering, and we seem to be accelerating somewhat,” said Peter Gioia, an economist at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. “But we’re not alone in that other states still seem to be outperforming us.”

Massachusetts, with a larger economy, gained 7,200 jobs in July and has an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.

Democratic legislative leaders saw only positive news in the report.

“Connecticut’s economic development policies are helping businesses create jobs, and the state’s job training programs like STEP-Up are preparing workers for a 21st century economy. There’s more work to do but this is extremely positive news,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.

“Early on, the General Assembly partnered with Governor Malloy to make smart, targeted investments aimed at creating jobs, and our efforts are bearing fruit,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk.

The report comes as the state’s business climate still generates bad press. General Electric, headquartered in Fairfield, is considering moving out of state, blaming Connecticut’s fiscal environment.

The report is based on preliminary nonfarm employment data for July gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Six of the 10 “super sectors” tracked by the BLS gained jobs, led by 1,600 jobs in health and education, 1,100 in financial activities, 1,000 in government and 600 in manufacturing.

Construction was the biggest loser, seeing a loss of 2,300 jobs. But it still has net growth of 1,900 over the year.

Growth was uneven throughout the state, with gains in the Harford region and lower Fairfield County and losses in the New Haven market and eastern Connecticut. Danbury reported no changes.

The private sector numbers in Connecticut have a built-in anomaly: Two major employers — the tribal casinos of eastern Connecticut — are owned by sovereign governments and are listed as public-sector employers.

The casinos have been shedding jobs for months in the face of new competition in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York.

Connecticut unemployment rate over time

Connecticut Department of Labor

Connecticut unemployment rate over time

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