Employment rate inches up

Fifty-year-old New Haven resident Weldon McKoy said he has the skills necessary to perform jobs in areas ranging from general technician work to plumbing to auto-body to painting, and he also builds museum-quality models by trade. Still, he remains among the state’s unemployed — in spite of recent signs of hope.

Connecticut’s unemployment rate fell from 7.6 percent to 7.4 percent this past December, its lowest point in five years.  But despite a slight improvement, many Connecticut and New Haven residents are still struggling with the effects of the recession, according to the latest information from the Connecticut Department of Labor.

Since December 2012, the rate has declined 0.8 percent, marking the fourth straight month the figure has decreased. Despite the fall in unemployment, Connecticut’s economy lost a total of 3,900 jobs in December, offsetting the 3,800 jobs the state gained in November. 3,800 of the total jobs lost were in the private sector, according to state labor officials, and the professional business services sector took the biggest hit, losing 2,600 jobs.

Despite the drop in unemployment, Chief Economist and Director of Research for New Haven-based DataCore Partners Donald Klepper-Smith said he still believes the state’s economy is underperforming.

“The aggregate data is simply saying that Connecticut’s job market is coming back inch by inch as opposed to yard by yard,” Klepper-Smith said. “The local politicians can spin it whatever way they want to, but any objective analysis of Connecticut’s job picture indicates ‘significant underperformance’ relative to historical norms.”

Andy Condon, the state’s labor department’s director of the office of research, suggested in a statement that poor winter weather conditions during the week employers were surveyed about payroll jobs may have impacted the final numbers, as bus drivers, for example, may not have been working that week due to school closures. Nevertheless, in a December report by the Center for Economic Analysis, it was reported that 65,000 working-age adults simply stopped looking for employment during the last three years.

Some New Haven residents, like McKoy, are not among those who have given up looking for work. McKoy has been unemployed for the past two years, and said he has not held a steady job for 10 years. However, he continues to apply for up to 17 different jobs a day in hope of finding employment. A resident of Legion Wood Section 8 Housing in New Haven, McKoy said his number one hurdle in his search has been his criminal background, which include misdemeanors from 10-15 years ago.

“Even though they’re not felonies, they still send a red flag to employers,” McKoy said. “I’ve been doing work on the side for the past two years, and it’s not that I’m unemployable — I’m just unemployable on paper. People do change, and I’m definitely one of them. I’m ready to commit to work every day, but I just need a chance to show it.”

In 2013, Connecticut ushered in 11,500 new jobs overall and now has recovered 49 percent of the 121,200 jobs lost in the state during the 2008-2010 economic recession. Connecticut added 900 jobs to the service sector and 300 in the financial activities sector in December, spurring optimism in one of the hardest-hit sectors of Connecticut’s economy. Many economists have predicted that the state will fully recover from the recession by 2016.

The state’s unemployment rate peaked at 9.4 percent in August 2010 and remained at that level until January 2011.

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