State Loses 7,100 Jobs Amid Faint Signs Of Improvement
April 16, 2009
Connecticut continued its run of big job losses in March as employers shed 7,100 positions, but the unemployment rate ticked up less than expected, to 7.5 percent from 7.4 percent in February, according to a report released Thursday by the state Department of Labor.
The big question is when the staggering job cuts of the past six months will ease.
The state lost 25,000 jobs in the final three months of 2008 and 22,500 jobs in the first three months of this year.
Thursday's report for March, which is based on a survey of employers, follows a loss of 12,300 jobs in February -- which was revised in Thursday's report from a previously announced 14,300.
"There are some positive signs, both nationally and here in the state, which indicate we are beginning to see a bottoming out of this recession.
At this point, unfortunately, the nation's economy seems to lack consistency needed for any visible recovery to begin," state labor economist John Tirinzonie said.
Connecticut is tracking the nation as a whole in job losses, shedding 3.4 percent of all jobs in the past 12 months.
Here and elsewhere, mass layoff announcements are still a regular occurrence.
Employment in three of the state's 10 major sectors showed improvement in March.
Educational and health services continued its run of gains, adding 2,200 positions.
Leisure and hospitality, flat for the past year, added 700. Finance, which has lost more than 4,000 jobs in part because of the Wall Street meltdown, gained a barely measurable 200.
On a more dismal note, however, the state's manufacturing sector lost 4,000 jobs in March, the worst monthly loss since 1991.
Plant closings and staff reductions have eliminated 11,300 jobs in the past 12 months, reducing the total number of workers employed in the manufacturing sector from 188,100 in March 2008 to 176,800 last month.
In particular, manufacturers that are closely linked to the automotive industry have been "hurt pretty hard," said Richard Wheeler, a member of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association's manufacturers alliance.
Others are facing slowdowns.
"Companies that used to want their materials right away are deferring their orders.
In order to accommodate that loss of revenue, jobs go," said Wheeler, president of ABA-PGT Inc. of Manchester, a maker of plastic gears.
Wheeler said that ABA-PGT and some other local manufacturers have instituted a shared-work program in an effort to keep people on the job.
"We can lay people off for 8 or 16 hours during the course of a week.
The state offers unemployment compensation for the time they have off, and the employee retains their job," Wheeler said.
"We believe at some point business is going to get better.
This way you don't lose people."
The state's unemployment rate, based on a survey of households, is a full 1 percentage point below the national unemployment rate of 8.5 percent.
But economist Don Klepper-Smith said that jobless figures aren't always a reliable measure of the job market's health because the sample sizes are small.
"Trust the employment numbers ahead of the unemployment data," said Klepper-Smith, chief economist for DataCore Partners LLC in New Haven and chairman of the governor's council of economic advisers.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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