Connecticut ranks among the top third of states in terms of hospitality-sector employment loss stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new trade analysis. The new report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, which projects Connecticut hotel employment will still be down more than 5,900 jobs from pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year, comes as Gov. Ned Lamont and legislators try to decide what type of state relief to give the hospitality sector. \u201cThe pandemic has been devastating to the hospitality industry workforce, wiping out 10 years of hotel job growth,\u201d the association wrote in its analysis, adding that the nation\u2019s leisure and hospitality sector \u2014 which includes restaurants, museums, and other tourism attractions as well as lodging businesses \u2014 is down 3.1 million jobs since the coronavirus struck early in 2020. Connecticut hotels employed 26,225 workers in 2019. The number dropped by almost 8,800 last year and is projected to rebound to just over 20,300 by year\u2019s end. This would leave the state still down 22.5 percent from 2019. According to the analysis of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Connecticut\u2019s projected loss ranks 15th worst overall and above the national average of 20.4 percent. Hawaii led all states by a wide margin and is projected to be down 45.2 percent of its hospitality jobs by year\u2019s end. Massachusetts ranked second at 34.1 percent. In the Northeast, Connecticut\u2019s percentage loss was surpassed by Massachusetts, New York (32.8 percent,) Vermont (27.6 percent,) and Pennsylvania (24.6 percent.) The association focused in its analysis on direct hotel jobs, such as housekeepers and desk agents. This does not include positions that restaurants, attractions, supply vendors and other related businesses might have cut because of the weakened hotel industry. While pent-up demand for leisure travel among tourists has dominated the headlines, the pandemic has taken a deeper toll than many realize on conventions, retreats and other business ventures, said Ginny Kozlowski, executive director of the Connecticut Hotel and Lodging Association. \u201cWe desperately need the business traveler back \u2026 and soon \u2014 very soon,\u201d she said. Connecticut has had success implementing its COVID-19 vaccination program, and there have been discussions about doing more to promote Connecticut as a place to do business and to see the sights. The state\u2019s tourism promotion program relies chiefly on receipts from a hotel occupancy tax. Gov. Ned Lamont\u2019s budget proposal for the next two fiscal years recommends transferring $13 million from other sources to fill a projected deficit in that program. The legislature is weighing a proposal to increase the transfer into that program by $15 million. But hotels \u201care fragile, to say the least, and they do need direct support as well,\u201d Kozlowski said. The legislature\u2019s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee approved a bill that would allow restaurants, hotels and other businesses that serve prepared food to keep \u2014 for one year \u2014 the 1 percent meals surcharge on the state sales tax. This is worth almost $50 million per year, but Connecticut restaurants, which also have been hard hit by the pandemic, are expected to be the primary beneficiaries of this one-time assist. Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the needs are greater across the hospitality sector and state officials should develop a plan that targets all components. \u201cIt\u2019s imperative that we get the entire economy up and running again,\u201d he said, adding that if legislators can steer clear of any tax hikes in the next two-year budget, that would be a tremendous assist to hotels \u2014 as well as any other business. Lamont and legislators haven\u2019t finished work yet on the next budget, nor on how they will spend more than $2.6 billion in new federal pandemic relief sent directly to the state\u2019s coffers. But the governor has recommended matching nearly $350 million in federal funds \u2014 and $480 million in state borrowing and tax credits \u2014 to jump-start the economy, through loans, grants and workforce training. The administration plan also calls for $45 million to revitalize tourism in Connecticut, though details haven\u2019t been released yet on how those funds would be used.