August was a good month for jobs in Connecticut, and especially New Haven.
The recently released “Labor Situation” report from the Connecticut Department of Labor revealed that the state saw a net increase of 3,200 jobs during August, representing the best year-over-year August job growth in the past decade. Last month, the unemployment rate in the state dropped one-tenth of a point to 5.3 percent, a shade higher than the national average of 5.1 percent. According to data produced by DataHaven Executive Director Mark Abraham ’04, New Haven gained 127 jobs over the same period, bringing its unemployment rate down from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent. This figure represents a steep decline from January’s 8.7 percent unemployment rate.
“New Haven has actually shown better job growth than Connecticut,” said Tony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce. “The city has already recovered all jobs lost from the recession — even after this August, the state falls short.”
Connecticut has recovered 98.4 percent of the private sector jobs lost during the recession and needs to gain another 1,800 to make up the lost ground.
Rescigno pointed to three key industries as major drivers of New Haven’s economic success.
“The whole technology area has been extremely satisfying,” he said. “We’re pleased with the not-for-profits. The sheer number of them makes them economic drivers in themselves. And the whole health care industry is doing extremely well.”
City Hall Spokesman Laurence Grotheer highlighted construction as another major contributor to New Haven’s employment surge. He cited the construction of the two new residential colleges the development of the future headquarters for multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company Alexion at 100 College St. and the Downtown Crossing Project as examples.
Both Rescigno and Grotheer commended the aggressive manner in which city administrators have sought to address the unemployment rate. Rescigno pointed to Mayor Toni Harp’s ambition and business friendly nature as key factors in the city’s growth.
The positive numbers may belie an uncertain future, however, according to Donald Klepper-Smith, former chairman of the Connecticut Economic Advisory Council. He cited the potential relocation of General Electric’s headquarters away from Connecticut as a major blow to the state’s economy.
“The August job numbers for Connecticut were basically ‘in line with expectations,’ given the national data,” Klepper-Smith wrote in a newsletter he sent to the News. “That’s the good news [but] I’m thinking about job creation heading into 2016, and the potential fallout from GE leaving Connecticut. In my 35 years as a professional economist, I can’t recall a time when business confidence was more threatened.”
GE has been considering leaving Connecticut ever since Gov. Dannel Malloy pushed through $1.1 billion in tax increases in the state.
Malloy, in a press statement, did not seem to share Klepper-Smith’s pessimism, but promised a proactive approach to tackling state unemployment in the future.
“There is no doubt the needle is moving in the right direction,” Malloy said. “Nonetheless we must continue fighting for more good paying jobs with good benefits as we engage with companies like never before.”
Rescigno was bullish about job prospects for New Haven residents. He said that residents from other urban areas in Connecticut, like Hartford and Stamford, were going to want to be in New Haven because the city is “hot.” He cited Yale and the Yale-New Haven hospital as areas integral to Connecticut’s growth and instrumental to attracting small businesses and firms.
“New Haven is desirable to be in short term and for its longer term prospects,” Grotheer said, echoing the sentiment. “The city is a hub for innovation.”
Connecticut’s unemployment rate has not been this low since April 2008.