With 100,000 job openings in Connecticut, employers say they’re struggling to fill positions in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, but, according to a new report from WalletHub, Connecticut employers are doing better than most.
The report ranked Connecticut as one of the states where employers face the least difficulty in filling open positions, ranking behind only New York and Washington D.C. in terms of filling job openings.
“Lots of businesses are struggling to hire enough workers, which has sometimes led to delays in services and reduced business hours,” WalletHub wrote in its summary. “In fact, the labor force participation rate has experienced the slowest recovery of any recession since World War II. Some businesses aren’t even able to keep the employees they already have – as Americans are quitting their jobs at record rates in what’s been dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’.”
The rankings provided by WalletHub are based on a comparison of job openings for the last month and the previous 12 months, which landed Connecticut in the top spot and states like Alaska, Kentucky and Georgia having the most difficulty filling positions.
Some states have more job openings now than they did a year ago, according to the report.
According to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s most recent survey in 2021, 80 percent of Connecticut businesses reported “difficulty finding and retaining workers” and 35 percent said the labor shortage was their “greatest obstacle to growth,” with one third saying job candidates do not have the required skills for the jobs and 26 percent citing poor work ethic.
Thirty-nine percent of employers said it was difficult to get employees who were furloughed during the pandemic to return to work.
The most recent jobs and unemployment report from the Connecticut Department of Labor show Connecticut’s unemployment rate sitting at 4.2 percent, slightly higher than the national average, and the state has recovered 86 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic.
Connecticut’s overall labor force remains 60,800 workers short of where it was in January of the 2020 before the pandemic, according to CT DOL, meaning even if Connecticut recovers every job lost during the pandemic, 40,000 job openings would remain unfilled.
And different industry sectors were affected differently during the pandemic and the subsequent recovery: the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues largely shut down during the pandemic, remain 10,200 workers short of pre-pandemic levels; Government jobs are down 15,000 and financial jobs are down 4,300.
However, a number of other sectors have either fully recovered or are within range, including manufacturing, construction, education and health services and professional and business services.
Over the past year, Connecticut’s gross domestic product rose 4.1 percent, but remains 2.3 percent below its pre-pandemic output and 4.7 percent below the state’s high just before the 2008 recession.
Still, Connecticut employers remain concerned about the state of Connecticut’s labor force and the state is attempting to meet those skilled job demands with increased focus on creating a pipeline from schools to jobs in the manufacturing industry, an increased focus on trade job apprenticeships and offering free college tuition at the state’s community colleges.
But with employers looking to hire and workers – particularly skilled workers – in short supply, the state and national economy is currently an employees’ market and employers are having to accommodate to a world that experienced a seismic shift brought on by the pandemic.
That includes offering higher wages, which could put more upward pressure on prices during a time of very high inflation, according to Miren Ivankovic, adjunct professor of economics at the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers School of Business at Clemson University.
“Shortage of labor means that this will place an upward pressure on the wages, which sounds great for the members of the labor force,” Ivankovic wrote of WalletHub’s report. “However, increasing wages during current inflationary times is not a welcome event. It can accelerate current inflation and practically reduce real incomes.”
Ivankovic said that even with low unemployment rates, the continued labor shortage may be the result of the labor force participation rate.
“It seems that individuals who left the labor force are not returning to it,” Ivankovic said. “This is a problem that should be addressed.”