Connecticut private sector employers added 7,700 jobs during January 2012, and the unemployment rate for the state fell to 8.0 percent, according to the Connecticut Department of Labor, beating the national average of 8.3 percent. The DOL’s January data is positive news following last December’s report, which showed a loss of about 1,000 jobs accompanied by a reported exit of some unemployed people from the labor market, pushing the overall unemployment rate down. Unemployment in December stood at 8.1 percent, and the January report, which was released last week, marks the sixth consecutive month that the state’s unemployment rate has fallen.
“The [DOL’s] report is encouraging — another sign that we are beginning to see a recovery when it comes to job creation,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy in a press release last week. “We continue to outpace the national average, which is a testament to the hard decisions we made last year to stabilize our state’s finances and focus on job creation.”
Since January 2011, Connecticut has added a total of 16,300 private sector jobs, with January 2012’s job growth representing nearly half of that figure. State officials attribute that growth to gains in the construction and manufacturing sectors. The state added 1,400 manufacturing jobs and 3,100 construction jobs in January.
“We’ve had a mild winter, so construction projects have been able to come online earlier than usual,” said Alissa DeJonge GRD ’00, director of research at the Connecticut Economic Resource Center.
DeJonge added that construction is a cyclical component in Connecticut’s economy, and that sector often increases activity in March and April as cold weather subsides.
Concurrent with the increase in statewide building, City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said New Haven is experiencing “a boom in construction.”
The city’s Schools Capital Program, which seeks to rebuild or renovate every New Haven public school, and construction on Yale facilities are key drivers of that growth, she added. Benton also said construction on the 360 State Street apartment complex, the conversion of the old Winchester Repeating Arms Factory into a business office, and utility company upgrades such as the Public Service Enterprise Group power plant demonstrate strong private construction activity.
But despite strong construction growth, New Haven’s January unemployment rate stood at 12.5 percent, well above the state average. Benton said the key to meeting New Haven’s challenges — including high unemployment, the state’s second-lowest home ownership rate, the state’s second-highest percentage of subsidized housing participation, and a high incarceration rate — is improving the city’s public schools.
“There is no better job creation program, wealth creator, or violence-reduction initiative than the success of our public schools,” Benton said. “We need to make sure all of our young people are graduating from high school ready to succeed in today’s economy.”
The state’s manufacturing sector experienced strong job gains in part because of a weakened U.S. dollar, making exports relatively less expensive, DeJonge said. She added that some of the research and development work that had previously been outsourced from Connecticut returned to the state during January.
“It’s more of the advanced manufacturing that is gaining in Connecticut,” DeJonge said. “You aren’t going to get simple things in the inventory line — that’s not coming back — but advanced manufacturing like aerospace and turbine development is coming back.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate is falling in part because some people have given up on searching for jobs and have exited the labor market altogether. DeJonge said that this trend is also present in Connecticut, where the labor force is smaller now than it was a year ago. However, she added that the number of discouraged workers quitting their job search is difficult to track accurately.
In October, the state legislature approved a $1 billion jobs bill for new and expanding business assistance, workforce development and job training programs.