New reports released Thursday show that Connecticut has now lost more jobs in this recession than in the previous one, in 2000-2003, and that job losses will continue to increase for at least another year.
While some parts of the economy are showing improvement, jobs in Connecticut are expected to continue disappearing for the rest of this year and into 2010, with unemployment forecast to peak at 8.9 percent next year, according to a report from the New England Economic Partnership.
A jobs report from the state labor department heaped on more bad news, saying the state lost 11,800 jobs in April, with all 10 major industry sectors showing losses.
Economists were particularly concerned about the loss of 1,800 manufacturing jobs that followed a loss of 4,000 in March.
"The April figures are ugly," said Peter Gioia, who tracks the economy for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, a trade group. "There's no way to come around that. All sorts of things got hit. It was ugly all around."
Connecticut's unemployment rate, based on a survey of households, rose to 7.9 percent in April from 7.5 percent in March. The increase, which was expected, is a full percentage point below the national average of 8.9 percent.
Connecticut's job losses have surpassed those of the last recession, increasing to 69,000 from March 2008 to the end of April.
The recession from 2000 to 2003 recorded a loss of 61,000 jobs.
Those numbers are far below those from the devastating recession of 1989-1992, however, when the state lost 160,000 jobs.
The job loss in April was worse than March's decline of 6,300, revised down from a preliminary figure of 7,100. But the April loss was less than the decline of 12,300 in February.
April's loss represented a 0.7 percent drop, steeper than the 0.4 percent registered by the country as a whole.
Donald L. Klepper-Smith, an economist at DataCore Partners LLC in New Haven, said he expects losses to continue in the next few months and then moderate toward the end of the year.
"We're in the soup right now," Klepper-Smith said. "Any time you get a job loss in the five figures you have to say, 'Darn!'"
Klepper-Smith said he now forecasts the state will lose 80,000 to 100,000 jobs in this recession, up from his previous estimate of 60,000 to 80,000.
Some estimates are higher. Edward Deak, an economics professor at Fairfield University who prepared the economic partnership's forecast for Connecticut, said he expects job losses to reach 112,000, roughly twice the current total loss.
"We're a year away from finding the bottom," Deak said. "The average person who is trying to make ends meet is not going to see much relief until the second half of next year."
The partnership's long-term forecast was sobering, as well. It showed that even by the end of 2013, Connecticut will still not have gained back all the jobs lost in this recession, still shy by about 17,000.
Nationally, there have been some encouraging economic signs.
A private research group's forecast of economic activity rose more than expected in April. It was the first gain in seven months.
The Conference Board said Thursday its index of leading economic indicators rose 1 percent last month. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected an increase of 0.8 percent in the index, which is designed to forecast economic activity in the next three to six months.
But in Connecticut, Deak said he expects more cuts in financial services, notwithstanding bailout money going to banks and insurers such as The Hartford. Even with those funds, financial services companies will continue to look for ways to cut costs, he said.
He also said the likely end of the F-22 fighter jet program and trouble in the auto industry would mean a sizable hit to manufacturing.
None of that news was encouraging to Doug Eddy. Eddy lost his job as a manufacturing engineer at Gerber Scientific's plant in Tolland at the end of last year. He's gone on interviews, even looked for part-time work in his field, but hasn't had any luck.
It's discouraging, he said, but "there's not a lot anyone can do about the economy. You just have to ride out the storm."
Eddy, who lives in West Springfield, Mass., but draws unemployment benefits in Connecticut, said he has sought additional training while unemployed to add to his resume while he looks for work.
The decline in manufacturing —the source of good-paying jobs — is particularly alarming, said Fred Dearborn, a technical recruiter at Point Staffing in East Windsor, who has recruited locally for 30 years.
"We have nothing in the chute," Dearborn said, "to replace what we are losing."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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