Connecticut's resurgent manufacturing sector added 4,100 jobs in 2017—more than half the total jobs added across all industries for the year.
December's employment report, released today, delivered much-needed good news, with the state adding 6,000 jobs for the month and 7,700 over the year.
While the state Department of Labor's 2017 numbers are subject to revision in March, CBIA economist Pete Gioia welcomed the December gains, which followed losses in four of the previous five months.
"This is the first good news we've gotten in a long while," Gioia said.
"If those numbers hold up when the final report comes out in March, it will be a stark change to where we ended up in 2016, losing 200 jobs."
Manufacturers added 2,000 jobs in December and led all sectors with growth of 2.6% over the year.
That marks just the third time in the last three decades the sector posted annual gains.
"Four thousand-plus manufacturing jobs in one year is significant," Gioia said. "In 1996 it was 700 jobs, while we saw a 500 jobs gain in 2010."
Gioia said those 2017 gains were just a fraction of the vacancies manufacturers say they need to fill by the end of this year.
Retirements and a surge in demand, particularly in aerospace and defense, are responsible for a growing skills gap, with calls for a greater focus on expanding the state's workforce development efforts.
For instance, General Dynamics Electric Boat announced Monday its workforce exceeded 16,000 employees in 2017, a level not seen in almost 25 years.
The Groton-based submarine maker plans on adding another 2,200 employees in Connecticut and Rhode Island in 2018, saying its biggest challenge is finding qualified workers.
Gioia said another Connecticut industry sectors saw job growth last year.
"We also had financial activities gain 2,200 jobs year-over-year, although the sector did lose some jobs for the month," Gioia said.
"Out of the 7,700 jobs added for the year, we've got 6,300 within the two key core sectors for Connecticut's economy."
State Still Trails Region, U.S.
Gioia called for state lawmakers to build off the momentum reflected in the December employment report, as Connecticut's job growth still trails the region and much of the country.
"It has to be noted that we've only gained back 76% of the jobs we lost in the recession—one of the few states that hasn't gone over 100%," he said.
"Year-over-year, Connecticut job growth is up 0.5%, compared to 1.2% in New England and 1.4% in the U.S.
It's a good report, but we need to sustain it and we have a long way to go.
"It's a good report, but we need to sustain it and we have a long way to go."
Industry Sectors, Labor Markets
Five of the state's 10 industry sectors posted gains in December, led by professional and business services, which added 2,700 new jobs.
Trade, transportation, and utilities gained 2,600 jobs, followed by manufacturing, leisure and hospitality (1,600), and education and health services (400).
The government sector, which includes the state's casinos, was unchanged for the month.
Other services lost 1,200 jobs for the month, followed by construction and mining (-1,000), financial activities (-800), and information (-300).
Three of the state's labor market areas added jobs, led by Hartford, with 1,400 new positions.
Norwich-New London-Westerly gained 500 jobs and Danbury added 100.
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk declined by 700 jobs, while Waterbury lost 200 and New Haven lost 100.