Last year, Connecticut enjoyed its largest surge in job growth since 1998, according to a preliminary estimate released on Jan. 26 by the state Department of Labor.

Over 26,000 new jobs were created in the Nutmeg State last year, resulting in an unemployment rate drop from 7.4 percent to 6.4 percent. Connecticut has recovered 96,300 of the nonfarm jobs that were lost during the 2008 recession. New Haven’s rate of growth surpassed the state’s — in 2014, New Haven’s unemployment rate dove from 10.7 percent to 7.9 percent, according to a DataHaven report.

It is unusual for decreases in unemployment to be this drastic, said Alissa Dejonge GRD ’00, vice president of research at the Connecticut Economic Resource Center. Dejonge said it is possible that the estimate exaggerated the rate of growth, and she added that a revision to the estimate would not surprise her.

Even so, she noted, this is a clear sign that the state’s economy is improving.

“What we saw the previous year or two is that we had more and more discouraged workers in the economy,” she said. “We were seeing the labor force participation rate decrease … now that we’re not only seeing unemployment decrease but we’re also seeing the labor force increase, that’s telling me that the economy is starting to grow.”

New Haven’s labor force saw a healthy increase last year, going from 57,993 in January 2014 to 58,541 in December, according to statistics provided by Mark Abraham ’04, executive director of DataHaven.

City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer attributed this rapid growth to New Haven’s success at drawing businesses.

“New Haven is the economic hub of this entire region,” he said. “[It] is a transportation hub. That makes it attractive to businesses because they know that a workforce is nearby and better able to get into New Haven.”

Grotheer pointed to large-scale construction projects as job creators over the past year. He also noted that the government has played a significant role in investing in small businesses through programs such as Step Up, which helps young companies underwrite the cost of training new workers.

Both Grotheer and Dejonge agreed that increased consumer optimism and willingness to invest has been a major role in both the city and the state’s job growth.

“Some industries bounce back as a result of the economy bouncing back,” said Dejonge. “We’re seeing things like retail, accommodations, food services increase. That means that more people are starting to go out and spend more money … as the economy starts to heat up, we see those industries improve.”

The labor department’s report supports Dejonge’s statement — job growth in the retail sector increased by 3.5 percent last year.

Dejonge was optimistic when asked whether this trend would continue.

“The analysts are predicting some fairly strong gains for 2015 and even stronger gains for 2016,” she said. “I do think that this is the start of a longer positive trend.”

Nearly every industry in the state grew last year, with the exception of finance and insurance, which dropped by almost 2 percent. Dejonge explained that Connecticut is losing finance jobs to other states, but that the industry is still strong.

Connecticut gained 18,400 jobs in 2013.

 

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