Connecticut lost 4,300 jobs in December, a miserable month closing out a terrible year for job-seekers.
"I never expected to see a decline of that magnitude," said Nick Perna, an economic forecaster who lectures at Yale and is an adviser to Webster Bank.
The unemployment rate remained stuck at 9 percent in December, the state Department of Labor reported Monday — right where it was when the year began last January. For all of 2010, the number of positions at Connecticut employers grew by a weak 5,300, just one-third of 1 percent — a number that includes part-time jobs.
The combination of the employer survey on job totals and the household survey on unemployment shows that the state's recovery is hardly noticeable, even though the recession technically ended 18 months ago.
Because job growth is practically nonexistent, the state is losing young workers, among them Lindsay Lynch. She graduated in May from the University of New Haven with a degree in graphic design and a minor in photography.
Lynch returned to her parents' home in Hopatcong, N.J., but says she would have stayed in Connecticut had she found a job here.
"I am just staying positive, trying to contact as many people as I can, and hopefully find something," said Lynch, who is working about 20 hours a week at a dance store for her former baton twirling coach at $9 an hour, and began paying back student loans this month.
The jobs numbers are from employer surveys, and could change in early March with annual revisions based on payroll data. Revisions are common, but just last month, the Labor Department warned that the 2010 total could be even weaker after the March revisions.
"Even if there was no decline in jobs in the month of December, we still have a jobs problem in the state," Perna said. "A big jobs problem. And it's something the legislature and the governor are going to have to do something about."
A bill passed by the legislature and signed by former Gov. M. Jodi Rell eliminated a $250 business tax, provided incentives for investments for start-up firms, added a tax credit for small businesses that add jobs and created $200 million in new tax credits for technology firms.
The Department of Labor also revised November's numbers, making that month's gains far weaker. The report Monday said there were 1,500 jobs added in November, down from 2,500 previously reported.
For 2010, Connecticut's 0.3 percent gain in jobs was well below the nation's 0.9 percent gain, and badly trailed the 1.5 percent growth in Massachusetts. The biggest contributors to Connecticut's growth: health care, 6,400 jobs; and hotels and restaurants, 2,000 combined; and stores, 1,600.
Temp agencies added thousands of jobs, although the report did not include a specific number.
Steve B. Martin returned to unemployed life in December, after a five-week consulting job in lean manufacturing, a strategy that seeks to produce high output with a minimum of inventory.
The last long-term job he held was in Agawam, Mass., as a lean manufacturing trainer for a company that makes roofing screws. He was laid off from that job in October 2009, after the construction sector collapsed.
Since January 2010, Connecticut factories have added 900 jobs. "I don't believe it," Martin said.
Martin, 46, of Tolland, said he has worked in manufacturing for his whole career, first as an engineer, and later as a lean manufacturing expert. This is the second time he's been laid off — the first time was in suburban Washington, D.C., in 1997, from a giant defense contractor. But that time, he found a new job in a few months. This time, in a year, he's had four interviews, one in Worcester, Mass., to do lean training and design at a hospital, and the other three in factories.
His wife works, but her retail job doesn't pay nearly as much as his engineering job did. They have one daughter in college, and one headed to college in the fall. His older daughter, who is studying nursing, has had to take out more loans than he'd wanted her to because of his unemployment.
Martin said there were a lot of manufacturing job listings in December, but January has not been as promising. "It's a hard read right now," he said. "I'm hoping something comes up."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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