Connecticut economy loses 6,600 jobs in October

Connecticut lost 6,600 jobs last month, according to the state Department of Labor, the fourth month in the last five that has seen a drop.

The state’s unemployment rate fell 0.1 percent in October to 4.5 percent but with the month’s employment losses, Connecticut has lost 12,200 jobs since June. Employment data for September, which had reflected a loss of 2,000 jobs when it was released last month, was revised upward to a gain of 300 jobs

The decline in the unemployment rate is a function of Connecticut’s shrinking labor force, which reflects the number of people actively looking for work, according to Pete Gioia, an economist with the Connecticut Business & Industry Association. Connecticut’s labor force declined by 7,900 last month.

“Not only did we lose 6,600 jobs in October, the labor force shrank again,” Gioia said in a statement. “We hear from companies daily, particularly manufacturers, that they can’t find qualified workers and until we fix this problem, we may continue to see disappointing or subpar reports. The lack of job growth highlights our workforce development concerns; we’re not keeping pace with the number of retirements.”

The employment losses and shrinking workforce has Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research for New Haven-based DataCore Partners, predicting that Connecticut is teetering on “the edge of recession.”

“This is the first time that anticipated full job recovery (from all that were lost during the last recession) is not likely to occur until 2020,” Klepper-Smith said. “It means Connecticut is not likely to revisit its prior job peak of 1.71 million jobs, achieved in early 2008, anytime soon and that we're more apt to see the onset of a full-blown domestic recession before that time.”

Equally as troubling is that the New Haven Labor Market Area lost 2,500 jobs in October. The New Haven area often has added jobs even as the state has seen its employment numbers drop.

Klepper-Smith said because the New Haven-area economy’s key drivers are health care and education employment, “we have stronger economic base than many other areas of the state.”

“We’re keeping our nose above water right now,” he said. “But the waves keep getting bigger and threaten to overwhelm us.”

The biggest employment losses in the New Haven Labor Market Area last month were in manufacturing, where there were 600 fewer jobs than in October 2016, and retail trade, where there were 400 fewer jobs, according to Labor Department data.

Andy Conon, director of the state Labor Department’s Office of Research said while the October job losses in Connecticut are not good news, “it is not as bad as it appears.”

“Nearly half the decline comes from the very seasonal leisure and hospitality sector,” Condon said in a statement. “This loss is exaggerated because the very high summer peak season employment levels were well ahead of last year. In the fall, employment levels returned to a more typical pattern, making recent job losses appear extreme.”

But Klepper-Smith described Connecticut’s October employment numbers as “dismal.” After eight years of economic recovery, he said there is significant evidence that a recession is starting to emerge in Connecticut.

“Importantly, the October job numbers imply that the state budget just passed is likely to become more problematic in coming months, speaking to dysfunction within Connecticut's current array of economic development strategies,” Klepper-Smith said. “The state’s labor markets are now headed in the wrong direction due to a host of factors and will be closely watched in coming months.”