Connecticut’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 6.4 percent in December, buoyed by 4,800 new jobs created during the holiday shopping season, the state Labor Department reported Monday.

The state closed 2014 with 26,700 jobs gained, up from the 18,400 positions added in 2013. Connecticut now has regained 96,300, or 80.9 percent, of the 119,100 jobs lost during the last recession.

“Connecticut finishes 2014 on an encouraging note with more than 80 percent of nonfarm jobs recovered from the Great Recession – almost 94 percent for the private sector, said Andy Condon director of the department’s Office of Research. “Employment gains were widespread across most industries and regions, although wages are slower to recover.”

Average hourly earnings in December stood at $28.42. Average weekly pay was up just 2 percent for the year at $960.60.

Over the past year, nine of the state’s 10 industry super-sectors recorded job gains.

Leisure and hospitality led the way, up 4.2 percent, followed by trade, transportation and utilities, which increased by 2.6 percent.

Gains also were recorded in education and health services; professional and business services; manufacturing; government; construction and mining; information; and other services.

But one of the linchpins of Connecticut’s economy, financial activities, lost 2,400 jobs in 2014, dropping 1.8 percent.

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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