A job fair in 2021. Connecticut's employment numbers still lag the nation's, a new report says. Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut’s labor market lagged national trends last month, with employment remaining stubbornly below pre-pandemic levels.

Nationally, July of this year marked the full recovery of all jobs lost during the pandemic, nearly two and a half years after it began. U.S. payrolls surged by 528,000 to meet and just surpass the February 2020 level of 152.5 million jobs.

But Connecticut’s workforce isn’t there yet. The state added 6,500 jobs last month, bringing the total to 1,658,800. Officials estimate that amounts to an 86.1% recovery of pandemic-related job losses in March and April of 2020.

Connecticut’s unemployment rate was 3.7% in July, still slightly elevated from the February 2020 rate of 3.4%.

In a statement, the Connecticut labor department attributed the shortfall to “a wide variety of issues including retirements, daycare issues making it difficult for women to re-engage in the job market; and people creating start-ups and new businesses instead of returning to the workforce as employees.”

Connecticut has steadily added jobs over the last two and a half years, but residents’ participation in the labor force has waned in the face of the pandemic. Today’s labor force in the state — that is, people who are either working or looking for work — is 51,600 smaller than it was in February of 2020.

And that trend has been slow to turn around. From June to July of this year, the labor force shrank by 2,100.

That has presented difficulties for employers looking to fill openings, and it has strained the economic comeback. According to state labor officials, Connecticut employers currently have more than 100,000 open jobs.

Chris DiPentima, head of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said in a statement Thursday that he was “encouraged” by the steady addition of jobs, particularly in the construction sector. But, he added, “it’s critical that we sustain this momentum as the state continues its slow recovery from the pandemic.”

DiPentima pointed out that job growth in Connecticut has lagged the national rate so far this year. “The worker shortage crisis remains one of our biggest growth obstacles,” he said. “Connecticut has 105,000 job openings, and if every unemployed person was hired tomorrow, we’d still have 34,600 open positions.”

Correction

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the estimated percentage of nonfarm jobs recovered since the pandemic-related losses of March and April 2020. It is 86.1%.

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Erica is CT Mirror's first-ever Economic Development Reporter. Before joining CT Mirror in August 2021 Erica was a writer / producer for public radio’s Marketplace, and was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal for seven years, first as a general assignment / regional economy reporter and then as a supply chain reporter covering freight, trade, and e-commerce. She grew up in Minneapolis, MN, graduated from Haverford College in Pennsylvania with a degree in economics and a concentration in Latin American studies, and received a master’s in specialized journalism from the University of Southern California.