The release today of Connecticut's monthly jobs numbers created so much confusion the state's labor agency was forced to host a highly unusual media conference call.

The issue? The state reported 5,100 new jobs in July. At the same time, the unemployment rate rose dramatically, climbing four-tenths of a percent to 8.5 percent, above the national average of 8.3 percent.

And the explanation? Well, the state Department of Labor uses two different surveys in compiling its monthly report.

In measuring job growth (or loss, as the June numbers were revised from 1,400 new jobs to 100 lost jobs), the agency relies on a survey of some 6,000 employers.

Household survey

The unemployment numbers are based on a survey of households. That survey reported Connecticut lost 15,000 jobs in July, completely at odds with what employers reported.

“The complete disagreement between our two key indicators of labor market health in Connecticut make an assessment of market conditions difficult at best this month,” said Andy Condon, the agency's research director.

“We will have to wait until more data comes in to see if July’s results were a statistical anomaly or an early indicator of a turning point in the economy, as yet uncorroborated by other data."

Governor Dannel Malloy expressed skepticism about the conflicting numbers.

Skepticism

“To buy into the household survey number you’d have to believe that Connecticut lost 503 jobs every day during the month of July, and there’s just no evidence to suggest that happened," he said in a statement.

"Here’s what we do know. First, as people flood back into the job market because they’re optimistic they can find work, the unemployment rate goes up. Second, it’s going to take more than 20 months to turn around a state economy that failed, on a net basis, to grow jobs for more than 20 years.

"Third, while we’d like to think we completely control our own economic fate, we don’t. Like virtually every other state, we’re struggling because the national recovery is struggling. And fourth, the uncertainty in Europe continues to act like a lead weight on our backs."

CBIA economist Pete Gioia found signs in the July report of the state's continuing weak economic recovery.

Weak recovery

"Unfortunately, if you take a look at the year-over-year figures, the first seven months show a year-over-year gain of only 7,100 jobs," Gioia said. "And that's troubling and shows only a weak recovery."

Employers in four of the state's six major Labor Market Areas reported job gains in July, led by the Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford area's 2,500 jobs.

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk added 2,200 jobs, while New Haven gained 1,700 positions and Waterbury 100. Danbury lost 800 jobs and Norwich-New London was unchanged.

The government sector gained 2,600 jobs, following the 3,600 positions lost in June. Education and health services added 2,400 jobs, followed by leisure and hospitality (1,400).

Manufacturing reported 1,400 new positions in July. Trade, transportation, and utilities lost 1,600 jobs, while construction and mining shed 1,500 positions.

Connecticut has recovered 38,500, or almost a third of the 117,500 jobs lost during the March 2008-February 2010 recession.