Recession hits some Conn. counties hard

Connecticut was hit harder than most states by the economic downturn, according to analysis of census data released last week by Connecticut Voices for Children.

Nationally, 15.3 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2010, up from 14.3 percent in 2009. The Constitution State saw a 6.1 percent drop in average income from 2009 to 2010, behind only Nevada for the largest dip in incomes in the nation. New Haven, meanwhile, posted the second-highest poverty rate in the state in 2010, at 29.7 percent poverty. The data marks a significant rise in poverty over the past decade — 10.1 percent of Connecticut residents had incomes below the poverty line in 2010, compared to 7.3 percent in 2001. Nationally, 15.3 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2010, up from 14.3 percent in 2009.

In addition, New Haven county was one of three in the state to see a “significant decrease” in median household income, along with Hartford and Fairfield counties, and posted the lowest median household income in the state in 2010, at $57,056.

Fairfield County, downtown alderwoman Bitsie Clark pointed out, includes towns like Greenwich, New Canaan and Darien that are traditionally home to wealthy investors who lost “gaboons” of money when the stock market crashed in 2008 and the recession began. Towns like these, she said, skewed the state’s statistics.

“That’s where huge amounts of our tax revenue are coming from, and it took a big nosedive,” Clark said.

The census data also showed continued racial stratification. While only 5.9 percent of non-Hispanic white Connecticut residents lived in poverty in 2010, 22.1 percent of African-Americans and 23.6 percent of Hispanics fell below the poverty line. In 2010, the poverty line was defined as a yearly income of $22,113 for a two-parent household with two children.

Kelly Murphy, the city’s economic development administrator, was not available for comment Monday, but Sen. Martin Looney, a Democrat who as majority leader represents New Haven and Hamden in the state senate, called on the state government to rethink its community and technical colleges to ensure they produce well-trained workers. That, he said, would be the key to reducing the poverty rate in Connecticut.

“In order to participate effectively in opportunities that are being created, we are going to require higher levels of more sophisticated education and training,” Looney said. “One of our concerns is that Connecticut, for a long time, had a leadership role in precision manufacturing. We need to recapture our leadership role.”

The report comes as Gov. Dannel Malloy and the state government prepare for an Oct. 6 “Economic Summit” that will, Malloy hopes, lead to a bipartisan jobs package to be passed by Oct. 26 in a special session of the state legislature. Flanked by Republican legislators in a press conference held Monday afternoon in the state Capitol, Malloy pledged that the solution would be bipartisan and would “change the climate” for business in Connecticut.

“I can literally guarantee that, as a result of this session, Connecticut will be in a better place to compete for the jobs that are created,” Malloy said at the press conference.

The Oct. 6 summit will bring academics and members of the private sector to Hartford to discuss ways to improve Connecticut’s economy. It follows a three-month “Jobs Tour” during which Malloy travelled the state visiting businesses, including an August tour of 360 State Street.

Median household income also fell from $51,190 in 2009 to $50,046, according to the census data.

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