Youth face greatest impact from recession

Young people and minorities in New Haven were hit hardest in the recent economic downturn, according to a report from an advocacy group published last week.

The report, published by the New Haven-based non-profit Connecticut Voices for Children, shows that Connecticut lost 119,000 jobs in the 22-month recession, and that young people, Hispanics and African-Americans joined the ranks of the unemployed at higher rates than the general population. Additionally, the study showed that recent college graduates in Connecticut were having difficulty finding stable, long-term employment within the first year of graduation.

“[College graduates] will get a job,” said Orlando Rodriguez, a policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children and one of the study’s authors. “It’s just going to take longer and you’re going to work harder at it.”

And while they wait for that long-term career to come along, more and more graduates are turning to part-time employment. Among recent graduates from the Connecticut State University system, the school on which this portion of the study is based, unemployment jumped from 5 percent to 10 percent from 2006 to 2010. Part-time employment among recent CSU graduates jumped 12 points, from 16 to 28 percent, while the percentage of students holding full-time jobs dropped from 79 percent to 62 percent. Rodriguez said he had seen similar figures from the University of Connecticut. Yale data was not included in the study.

The study, which the institute publishes each year around Labor Day, also showed that urban areas and rural towns were impacted most adversely by the recession. New Haven is no exception — the city posted the state’s fourth-highest unemployment rate in June 2011, at 13.8 percent. The city also saw the second-highest change in unemployment at 6 percent.

Still, Rodriguez said New Haven was in the “middle of the pack” in terms of job loss. And in response to the growing unemployment, Kelly Murphy, the city’s director of economic development, pointed out that the city had actually seen enough job growth since the end of the recession to erase any recession-era job losses. She also pointed out that Connecticut has still not recovered jobs lost in the recession of the late 1980s.

The study comes as the state legislature prepares to convene a special session with Gov. Dannel Malloy this October that will focus on reversing this two-decade long stagnation in Connecticut’s economy.

Sen. Martin Looney, a Democrat who represents Hamden and New Haven and serves as the Senate Majority Leader, told the News he hopes the special session will examine incentives for businesses in Connecticut and find ways to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to expand and hire more workers. He said he also hopes to look at the state’s community and technical colleges to ensure they provide the kind of training employers want in the workforce.

Long term, though, Looney said he thinks statewide education reform will be necessary to close the achievement gap and keep low-income minorities from facing such high unemployment in the future.

“We know that many young people are coming out of our schools not necessarily prepared either for college or the workforce,” Looney said. “We need to make sure that Connecticut recaptures its best workforce.”

Jobs disappeared in nearly every sector in Connecticut — only healthcare posted job gains from the 2008-’11 period over which the study was conducted. In New Haven, employment in healthcare grew 4.6 percent over that same three-year period, amounting to over 2,000 jobs, the study noted.

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