Connecticut’s May jobs report, released Thursday morning, shows continued improvement in the state’s unemployment rate. But other numbers chart an ongoing struggle to keep the number of open positions down.

The report from the state’s Department of Labor showed another decline in the unemployment rate, bringing it to just 3.7%, reaching a nearly 98% recovery more than three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The private sector, specifically, has almost fully recovered.

Nonfarm jobs increased by 5,000 during the month, particularly in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 2,600 jobs heading into the busy summer months. Trade, Transportation and Utilities, meanwhile, added 1,700 jobs in May.

Meanwhile, two sectors lost jobs. Those included Educational and Health Services (down 1,200 jobs) and Construction and Mining (down 200 jobs), both of which lost around 0.3% of their total numbers.

In more good news, the report adjusted April’s numbers, which originally showed a loss of 900 jobs. It now shows a gain of 1,200.

While local business leaders are happy to see the jobs report continue to improve month over month, they are concerned by another ever-increasing number: workforce losses. 

According to Department of Labor numbers, the number of people actively working in the state of Connecticut has declined since 2022 and is still tens of thousands of workers lower than it was before the pandemic began. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) puts the number of workforce losses over the last 12 months at 45,800.

“I think it’s probably a combination of people just simply choosing that they’re not going to work,” says Eric Gjede, CBIA’s VP of Public Policy. “Or you have a lot of people who are either retiring or leaving the state for opportunities in other places.”

Gjede says what exactly is causing these declines is the “million-dollar question” for people in his position, but that it means ongoing struggles for employers in the state.

“We are already doing everything we can to try to attract people into the workforce,” he explains. “Offering some of the highest wages in the country, continuing to offer more benefits, more flexibility, but we’re seemingly unable to make a dent — or a significant dent.”

Gjede says this isn’t a new phenomenon for Connecticut and that the state has been struggling to rebuild its workforce since the 2008 recession. While he doesn’t know if there is a perfect solution, he does hope the state legislature will continue to decrease the state’s cost of living, while increasing incentives for business owners. 

“Continue to make Connecticut an attractive place, not just to live here but also to do business here.,” he says. “And if we can do that and stop adding additional burdens onto employers and not adding additional financial burdens onto the residents, I think that we can tackle this problem.”

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An Emmy and AP award-winning journalist, Tricia has spent more than a decade working in digital and broadcast media. She has covered everything from government corruption to science and space to entertainment...

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