The Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) released their revised benchmark job numbers for 2022, showing Connecticut has regained roughly 95 percent of the jobs lost during COVID, with the private sector regaining 96.9 percent and government jobs regaining only 68 percent.
Between January 2022 and January 2023, employers added 35,500 jobs and the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.8 percent to 3.9 percent, according to DOL.
The rebuilding of Connecticut’s job numbers was impactful on the restaurant industry, which was largely shut down during the COVID pandemic, but has now regained 99 percent of the jobs lost during that time, and both child daycare and hospital workers have fully recovered or exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
However, according to the numbers, several sectors are lagging, most notably manufacturing which has recovered only 82 percent of lost jobs, nursing home employment which DOL said “remains well below pre-pandemic levels,” as well as in government, finance and real estate.
However, the report notes that Connecticut’s overall labor force has shrunk by 25,000 workers and roughly 100,000 job openings remain to be filled. DOL’s press release indicates the smaller labor force is the result of “multiple factors including retirement, family care, and concerns about COVID.”
“Job growth is always good news and Connecticut businesses had a strong showing in 2022. They came into January with robust estimated jobs numbers as well,” said economist Patrick Flaherty. “There’s no doubt that companies are constrained by the smaller labor force available to them right now.”
Adding to labor force woes is Connecticut’s high voluntary quit rate with 40,000 employees quitting their jobs in December. “These workers are moving to other jobs or leaving the labor market,” DOL wrote, “they are not filing for unemployment benefits.”
Connecticut Business and Industry Association President Chris DiPentima said that while Connecticut’s start to 2023 “is off to a very strong start,” seeing a 2.1 percent job increase over the course of 2022 and 8,700 jobs added in January 2023 alone, but Connecticut is still lagging behind the rest of the country.
“We do need to keep in mind where we stand compared with the rest of the country – the national 12-month job growth rate is 2.9 percent with pandemic recovery at 114 percent,” DiPentima said in a press release. “We’re coming up on four years since COVID upended our economy and must accelerate efforts to solve the worker shortage crisis, which remains the biggest threat to our economy.”
DiPentima said that although Connecticut lawmakers are pursuing policies and proposals to address the worker shortage, CBIA is “concerned that some are choosing this moment to pursue additional, costly workplace mandates that are particularly harmful to small businesses, the heart of our economy.”
Among those proposals opposed by CBIA is an expanded paid sick leave bill, that would require employers with 11 or more employees to provide 40 hours of annual paid sick leave, following a 2011 mandate that required employers with 50 or more employees to provide that leave.
The restaurant industry is also facing policy headwinds as lawmakers look to increase the sub-minimum wage for employees who receive tips and look to implement restrictions around scheduling, requiring employees to be given ample notification if their shift hours are to be reduced.
While job numbers are growing across the United States, efforts by the Federal Reserve to slow inflation may have the effect of slowing job growth as well as the Reserve continues to increase interest rates to meet its target of 2 percent inflation. The current national unemployment rate for February is slightly higher than January at 3.6 percent but still below Connecticut’s rate of 3.9 percent.
However, Connecticut’s strong January jobs report was a good sign, according to DOL Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo, who said it “is positive news that speaks to the underlying strength of the state’s economy.”
“Connecticut’s unemployment rate remains low and stable; workers are actively benefitting from the opportunities afforded by the strong jobs market; and weekly unemployment benefit filing continues to be below pre-pandemic levels,” Bartolomeo said. “As we enter 2023 with an eye on the potential impacts of inflation, it’s worth reflecting on just how critical the 2020 infusion of $10.6 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits was to keeping Connecticut families afloat and the economy out of a depression.”