Growing youth unemployment coupled with persistent wage gaps along racial and ethnic lines threaten Connecticut’s long-term economic future, according to a new report released today by a New Haven-based public policy research group.

The annual Labor Day weekend report from Connecticut Voices for Children recommends that state officials strengthen access to “high quality” elementary and secondary education, make higher education and job training more affordable and provide greater opportunities for poor households to escape poverty.

“The health of our common economic future will depend on our success in broadening economic opportunities for young workers,” said Orlando Rodriguez, senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices and co-author of the report.

The unemployment rate for Connecticut workers ages 16 to 24 stood at 17.1 percent in 2012, the report found. That’s down slightly from a high of 18.2 percent reached during 2011. It’s also more than double the 7.4 percent rate for workers ages 25 to 54 and almost triple the rate for workers older than 54.

The youth unemployment rate, which stood at just 5.6 percent in 2000, has been steadily rising for much of the last 12 years, but it shot up dramatically during the last recession, the report states.

Compounding this problem, a shrinking share of Connecticut’s young workers is looking for employment.

While the rate for all workers seeking unemployment fell from almost 69 percent in 2007 to 66 percent last year, among 16- to 24-year-olds, the rate fell over the same period from 62 percent to 54.5 percent.

Long-term unemployment — the share of unemployed who’ve been out of work for more than 26 weeks — also remains a big problem for young workers, the report states.

Among the age 16-to-24 demographic in Connecticut, almost 34 percent were out of work more than 26 weeks last year, well above the national average of 27.7 percent, according to the report.

Long-term unemployment also was a big problem in 2012 for Connecticut’s oldest workers.

The report found that 61.5 percent of the Nutmeg State’s workers age 55 and older were off the job at least 26 weeks last year — the highest rate among all 50 states.

The report also found that unemployment among African Americans and Hispanics stood last year at 13.4 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively — both roughly double the 7.0 percent rate for whites.

Given that Hispanics are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the state, “and that minority populations are younger in Connecticut, these disparities in economic opportunity are troubling for the economic future,” the report adds.

Taken together, the findings show that Connecticut has a growing number of retirees as well as increasing totals of lower-paid minority workers.

“This means that Connecticut is losing higher-income workers (older, more-educated whites) while adding lower-income workers (younger, less-educated minorities),” the report states.

“We can’t afford an economy that leaves our young people behind,” added Edie Joseph, a policy fellow at Connecticut Voices and co-author of the report. “We urgently need a renewed commitment to supporting youth to get Connecticut back on track to a prosperous future.”

The report can be found on the Connecticut Voices website at

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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