Connecticut's economy zigged up as the national economy zagged down in November, and the state's unemployment rate ticked down to 9 percent from 9.1 percent in October.
The state Department of Labor estimated that employers added 2,500 jobs in November, as it released its monthly jobs report Thursday.
Through 11 months of 2010, Connecticut employers added 10,600 jobs, or two-thirds of 1 percent — a weak number that could get worse, as the report warned that the tally might fall after revisions due out in March.
In November, the largest gain was in health care, with 3,500 new positions. Jobs in health care have been a bright spot throughout the recession and halting recovery.
Medical businesses' resilience helped Karen Brinkman land a job Nov. 1 at the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain after 16 months of unemployment. Brinkman, 38, said she never worked in a hospital before, but her last job, as a producer for a video-posting dot.com firm in West Hartford for three years, did have a medical connection — the company focused on films of surgeries and some medical lectures.
Brinkman, of Manchester, said she had applied for secretarial jobs and marketing jobs, but never got interviews in those fields, where she wasn't experienced. She applied for many jobs at ESPN, too.
"I had several interviews there," she said.
In her new position managing continuing medical education at the hospital, Brinkman said she is making 20 percent less than at her last job, but it's more than unemployment, and she's particularly relieved to have health insurance. She said her husband has not been able to find a teaching job since he graduated several years ago. He's been substitute teaching.
She had to put her 5-month-old baby in daycare, which was hard, but she laughed as she said: "It is such a good feeling to be able to come to work and feel like a productive member of society."
It's not likely that thousands of the state's long-term unemployed will get to experience that feeling of relief in the near future, said economist Don Klepper-Smith, of Data-Core Partners in New Haven.
"Simply stated, area employers will make do with their existing workforce on the front end of business expansion until demand picks up and dictates new hiring," he said. "In the meantime, I still see more job gains in temporary hires."
The Professional services sector, which largely consists of temporary agencies, has added the most jobs this year, about 12,000 since January.
Most experts expect that hiring won't come back in earnest for another six months to a year, and that the unemployment rate will hover around 9 percent through most of 2011.
That's discouraging for Lori Eifler, who lost her $31,000-a-year manufacturing job in late September when the shop that made emergency lights shut down, putting 25 people out of work. Manufacturing, which is better paying than most other segments that only require a high school degree, was the second-hardest hit in this recession. Construction jobs fell furthest.
Eifler said she's been applying for a few manufacturing jobs, "but really no one's hiring." She's applying for sales clerk jobs, too, which she previously did for years. But those jobs pay about $10 an hour. "It's hard, because you can't come close to the same pay. That's the worst part of it all," she said.
Eifler, 45, has two adult children at home in Colchester, and her son, a former Marine who served in Afghanistan, hasn't been able to find work since he returned to Connecticut in August. "He could start at a few things at minimum, but it's discouraging," she said.
She said her husband still has his job building sheds, but said that sector is slow as well.
"I'm actually thinking a lot about trying to get trained for something else," Eifler said. She has an appointment Tuesday with a state counselor to talk about it.
She's thinking about the medical field, but isn't sure she can commit to going to school for a year or more, which is what many of the better jobs would require.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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