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Connecticut's Jobless Rate Hits 8.9 Percent In December

MARA LEE

January 22, 2010

Connecticut's unemployment rate hit its highest point yet in the recession in December, spiking to 8.9 percent, according to a state report released Thursday.

The good news in November's numbers when unemployment fell to 8.2 percent from 8.8 percent the previous month apparently was a mirage.

Economic forecaster Nick Perna said, "I honestly thought the December rate would look better. And I was wrong."

Nationally, unemployment held steady at 10 percent for December.

East Hartford resident Carlos Clarke, 25, isn't surprised that the jobless rate has jumped again. He said he knows many other unemployed people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14.9 percent of his demographic black men 25 to 34 are unable to find work.

In the past year, Clarke said, the only time he worked was in a commission-only job for one month, trying to get businesses or institutions to change their electricity provider. But he was unable to meet the sales quota, and lost that job in December.

Although he has an associate's degree in graphic design and digital animation, he said he has never found work in that field. The best-paying job he's ever had was a part-time UPS package sorting job, at $13 an hour, he said.

In Web development and graphic design, he finds employers are "looking for people with bachelor's degrees most of the time. I feel like I'm being overlooked."

Meanwhile, the interest on his $25,000 in student loans keeps accruing.

Clarke was one of 700 job-seekers at a career fair last week in East Hartford, where he was disappointed to find that many of the recruiters represented organizations wanting people to sell products from home, with no salary.

Monday, Clarke will go to the National Guard recruitment office and take a vocational test. The last time he took it, right after high school, he scored a 78. He wants to go back to college and have the military pay for it.

He doesn't know what his 18-year-old brother will do when he graduates from high school. "The economy's bad. I wish him the best."

The only sectors that added jobs in Connecticut in December were education (1,200) and health and social services, up by 100 positions.

Employers in the state shed 4,800 jobs in December, the Connecticut Department of Labor report showed. In November, the state lost 4,100 jobs.

In all, since March 2008, payrolls have shrunk in Connecticut by 94,500, or 5 percent of the employment base.

Don Klepper-Smith, chief economist at DataCore Partners LLC, said the worst is yet to come.

"My expectation is that unemployment statewide will still top out in the 9 percent to 10 percent [range] sometime around mid-year," he wrote in his analysis of the report.

But Perna said there are reasons to feel hopeful about the economy. Initial claims for unemployment in December were almost 40 percent lower than in March.

Gayathri Konduru, an information technology analyst, attended the same job fair as Clarke. Her contract job with CIGNA in Bloomfield ended in November 2008, and it took her just one month to find another position, though she had to commute daily from Middletown to Providence, a 90-minute drive. That contract ended in June.

She decided to stay home with her kids, who are 7 and 8, during their summer break. She looked for work in September without success, then had to travel to India to be with her sick mother.

She said she didn't start searching again until this month. So far, she's getting calls from recruiters, but none has resulted in a job interview.

"I hope I'll get one soon. My husband is also in IT. He gets good pay," she said, and they can live on his salary without hardship. But her earnings provide for things that are nice, rather than necessities, and they set much of it aside for college savings.

She said she keeps hearing how the economy is improving, but said, "I don't see it in my case. I have to be patient."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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