February Brings More Jobs, Labor Force Issues Persist
Connecticut employers added 5,600 jobs in February, continuing a strong start to 2023, although continued labor force declines remain a significant concern.
The state Department of Labor’s latest monthly employment report also revised January’s report up 100 jobs, bringing the total added through the first two months of the year to 14,400.
Private sector employers added 6,100 jobs last month, adding to the 8,600 new positions from January.
“This is welcome news as we continue our pandemic recovery,” said CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima.
“We must do everything we can to continue this momentum, accelerate job growth, and address the labor shortage.”
Despite the strong start to the year, Connecticut’s 12-month job growth trails the region and ranks 44th among all states.
New Hampshire leads the New England states in year-over-year growth at 2.7%, followed by Massachusetts (2.5%), Vermont (2.2%), Maine, (2%), Rhode Island (1.9%), and Connecticut (1.7%).
The national 12-month growth rate is 2.9%.
Connecticut has recovered 97% of the historic 289,100 jobs lost in March and April of 2020 due to pandemic shutdowns and restrictions.
New Hampshire has the highest recovery rate at 108%, followed by Maine (107%), Massachusetts (99%), Connecticut, Rhode Island (94%), and Vermont (88%).
The U.S. continues to expand, with the national recovery rate at 114%.
Connecticut’s unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point to 4%—the highest in the New England region and above the 3.7% national rate.
Department of Labor Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo added a cautionary note to February’s report, saying that while Connecticut is well-positioned to navigate a recession, “this is a particularly complicated economic environment.”
“Our unemployment rate is low and stable, the number of weekly unemployment filers is low, and in January, the state’s employers had 97,000 job openings posted,” she said.
“That said, the U.S. just had high profile bank failures that will certainly impact Connecticut in the months to come, and economists continue to watch inflation.”
While Connecticut has 39% more job openings than in February 2020, the state’s labor force lost 2,000 people in February and has declined by 42,800 (-2.2%) over the last 12 months.
“We know the jobs are here in Connecticut,” DiPentima said. “But our continuing labor force declines remain a concern.
“It’s clear we need to bring more people to the state.”
‘Focus on Solutions’
Connecticut’s voluntary quits rate is 2%, fifth lowest among all states and half a percentage point lower than the national rate, while the overall separations rate is 3.2%, tied for fourth lowest.
The state’s labor participation rate is 64.7%, 13th best in the country.
DiPentima said those key employment indicators showed that Connecticut employers “are doing everything they can to create attractive, rewarding career opportunities and workplaces to attract and retain talent.”
“As we reach the midway point of the legislative session, lawmakers must focus on solving our challenges and avoid costly new workplace mandates and tax hikes,” he said.
DiPentima added that CBIA’s Transform Connecticut policy solutions—supported by almost half the General Assembly—”target the factors, including those that predate the pandemic, driving the worker shortage.”
“Sustaining this positive job growth trend means making Connecticut a more affordable place to live and work, adding new housing options, and expanding career pathways,” he said.
Industry Sector, Labor Markets
Seven of Connecticut’s 10 major industry sectors grew in February, led by educational and health services with 2,200 new jobs (0.6%).
The leisure and hospitality sector gained 1,700 new positions (1.1%), followed by professional and business services (900; 0.4%), trade, transportation, and utilities (900; 0.3%), construction and mining (400; 0.6%), other services (200; 0.3%), and manufacturing (200; 0.1%).
The government sector lost 500 jobs (-0.2%), followed by information (-300; -1%) and financial activities (-100; -0.1%).
Five of the six major Connecticut labor market areas posted gains, led by Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk with 2,100 new jobs (0.5%).
Employers added 800 jobs in both Norwich-New London-Westerly (0.6%) and Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford (0.1%), followed by New Haven (400; 0.1%) and Waterbury (100; 0.1%).
The Danbury labor market remained unchanged.
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