70K Job Openings, 6.8% Unemployment: Where Are the Workers?
September failed to bring the jobs bounce many in Connecticut expected following the end of federal COVID-19 unemployment benefits at the beginning of the month.
Employers added 4,700 jobs in September according to the employment report released Oct. 22, marking nine consecutive months of growth, although well off the 11,100 jobs gained in July, the year’s high.
However, the state’s year-to-date jobs growth rate—now 2.5%—is the second slowest of the New England states and a full percentage point behind the U.S. average of 3.5%.
Rhode Island leads to region with 4.9% growth this calendar year, followed by Massachusetts (4.8%), New Hampshire (3.5%), Vermont (3.4%), Connecticut, and Maine (1.8%).
Connecticut has recovered 70% of the 292,400 jobs lost to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, and trails all New England states. The U.S. recovery rate is 78%.
The state’s unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a point in September to 6.8%, the highest in the region and two points above the U.S. average.
‘Don’t Meet Expectations’
CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima called the pace of the state’s pandemic jobs recovery “a major concern.”
“The September employment gains, while welcome, do not meet our expectations for the state’s overall recovery,” DiPentima said.
“We are leading the nation in addressing the health crisis but are not keeping pace with the region or most of the country in our jobs recovery.
“And, most concerning of all, there are 70,000 unfilled job openings in Connecticut, yet we have 86,600 fewer people working than in February last year.”
First-time unemployment claims fell 21% in September to 3,730, the lowest number since February 2020 when 3,243 initial claims were filed.
Initial claims had jumped 19% in August after falling the previous month following the state Department of Labor’s reinstatement of work-search requirements.
Top Growth Obstacle
DiPentima noted that CBIA’s annual business survey, released in September, found that 81% of Connecticut employers faced difficulties finding and retaining workers.
”Employers are sounding the alarm loud and clear—the labor shortage is the number one problem facing the state’s pandemic recovery and our long-term economic outlook,” he said.
“The challenge is this, how do we get people back into the workforce? The jobs are there and it’s clear that we need a more aggressive approach to resolve this issue.
“CBIA and the business community are ready to work with the administration and the legislature to implement significant policy solutions for getting people back to work and realizing Connecticut’s tremendous potential.”
DiPentima said that while the labor shortage is a national issue, it is being felt more acutely in Connecticut, which was one of the few states that failed to recover all jobs lost during the 2008-2010 recession.
“There are so many positive factors driving economic momentum in Connecticut right now, including our pandemic response, vaccination rates budget surpluses, and more,” DiPentima said.
“The labor shortage threatens that momentum and must be addressed as quickly and as comprehensively as possible.”
Seven of the state’s 10 main industry sectors added jobs in September, led by trade, transportation, and utilities which gained 3,600 new positions (1.3%).
Construction and mining added 1,700 jobs (2.9%) and becomes the only sector to return to pre-pandemic employment levels.
Education and health services gained 1,100 jobs (0.3%), followed by manufacturing (400; 0.3%), information (300, 1.1%), leisure and hospitality (200; 0.2%), and financial activities (100; 0.1%).
Employment in other services fell by 1,400 jobs (-2.3%), with professional and business services losing 1,100 positions (-0.5%) and government declining 0.1% (-200).
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