The state’s unemployment rate fell for the second month in a row in December, dropping to 8.6 percent, even though Connecticut lost 1,800 jobs, according to a report Thursday from the state Department of Labor.

That’s because the state’s labor pool — which includes those employed as well as those actively seeking employment — fell by 9,900 from November, when the jobless rate was 8.9 percent. The unemployment rate reflects the percentage of residents seeking work who are unable to find it.

The latest report also shows that for the past calendar year, job growth effectively stayed flat, dropping 100 positions. That is well behind 2011’s modest growth total of about 7,800 jobs. The jobless rate in December 2011 was 8.1 percent.

“The state’s trend of a declining labor force continues for the sixth month in a row and was the primary factor behind the declining unemployment rate in December,” said Andy Condon, director of research for the labor department. “With the arrival of the December preliminary jobs report it is apparent that the rate of job growth slowed considerably in the last half of the year, however, we expect the level of jobs in the state to be revised upward when the benchmark is complete in March.”

The news comes on the same day that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed a $200 million bioscience innovation act to add further impetus to what the governor says is one of the state’s strongest areas for growth.

Just three of the state’s employment super-sectors displayed job growth in December

Education and health services saw the most growth last month, adding 1,800 jobs; while the manufacturing, and construction and mining sectors also grew.

The most losses in December occurred in trade, transportation and utilities, which dropped 2,000 jobs. Other sectors on the decline included: professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; other services; financial activities and information.

Results also were mixed among the state’s labor markets.

The Greater Hartford area market saw the most growth in December, adding 1,500 jobs, though the Danbury and Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk markets also saw gains.

The largest December loss was recovered in Waterbury, which was down 700 jobs, though New Haven and Norwich-New London also lost ground.

Overall, Connecticut has recovered fewer than 31,000 of the 117,500 jobs lost in the last recession, or just over 26 percent.

The chief economist for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Peter Gioia, called the December jobs report “pretty grim news.”

“Overall it shows an economy that isn’t even in first gear right now,” he said. “It’s really stuck in neutral.”

With the unemployment rate only falling because discouraged people have left the labor force, Gioia said the only “bright lining” in the report was the job growth in manufacturing and construction.

Unemployment end of 2012

Connecticut’s unemployment rate history from 1982.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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