Connecticut continues to lose more jobs than it adds, as cutbacks at public schools, in city and local government and at the casinos swamp the job growth in retail, restaurants and health care. In June, the number of jobs fell by 4,100, according to a preliminary estimate of job trends from the state Department of Labor.
"Not only is there no free lunch, but there's no way of reducing the size of government deficits that does not have some near-term negative effect on the economy," said economist Nick Perna, who teaches at Yale and consults for Webster Bank. "People say it's good we're cutting the size of government — well it's bad, because we're cutting the state workforce."
The cuts that will come if the state employee unions don't ratify a concessions agreement weren't reflected in these figures.
Jennifer Weymouth, 31, of Middletown is one of the state workers who will be out of work within the month if the unions don't approve concessions on the second vote.
An environmental analyst who has worked for the state for a year, she said she had no idea if the package will be approved on a second go-round. "I am hopeful," she said.
In more bad news, researchers now believe the state lost 5,500 jobs in May — not 2,900, as originally estimated.
The state's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent — the same rate as a year ago. That's an imperceptible improvement from the worst unemployment rate of the recession, which was 9.2 percent.
And it would be more like 9.7 percent if it weren't for the fact that so many unemployed people have stopped looking for work, sometimes because they've gone back to school, have retired early, or are taking care of children or elderly relatives.
"This is what happens when you have a deep recession followed by a mediocre recovery," Perna said.
Adalee Ruperto, 28, of Hartford, stopped looking for work about six weeks ago after applying for job after job since November. Ruperto repaired cameras at Enfield's Precision Camera for three years, making $12.79 an hour until her job was moved to Mexico.
In her months of searching, the only interview she had was for a part-time retail job.
"I searched for a job, couldn't find anything, and I heard there was a program called TAA, and so I started my process with that to go back to school for medical assisting," she said. TAA stands for Trade Adjustment Assistance, and it allows workers whose jobs are lost to foreign competition to get free tuition. There was a lot of red tape, so she's finally starting classes Monday.
Ruperto chose a 10-month medical assistant program, because she thought the hours would be better for taking care of her 3-year-old son than they would be if she worked as a registered nurse. "I've heard nurses, they work weekends and holidays, and I'd rather not do that," she said.
She can expect to start at $13 an hour when she graduates.
Sam Springer, 19, whose $13-an-hour job installing water meters dried up a year ago, has stopped applying for jobs while he goes back to school full-time. Last year, he took short training courses in welding and painting through the state Department of Labor, but also called dozens of HVAC companies to see if they had openings. Springer was in the heating and air conditioning program at Cheney Tech, graduating in 2009.
"All the trades are struggling right now," he said, so he didn't expect to land work painting or welding. "I was just trying to stay busy while I was still looking for work."
The CNC machining certificate program at Manchester Community College he's in now is also paid with government grants. He'll graduate in December.
"I guess there's a big need for it right now, or will be coming up soon," he said.
Ruperto is deeply pessimistic about the economy. "Everything's going downhill. I hear they're going to lay off state workers. Where are you going to go from there? It's bad enough you call the state for help and there's nobody there," she said. She had already been on state-subsidized health insurance before her layoff, but it took until January for her food stamps to start.
With $316 a week in unemployment instead of more than $500 a week in wages, Ruperto had to scale back drastically. "I had to give up my apartment. Now I'm cooped up in a room at my grandmother's. Car payment, $740 rent and my child — I couldn't do it."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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