Things are definitely getting better. In March, employers in Connecticut created 3,000 jobs and, as more data have come in, labor market analysts now say it was the third straight month that the state has added jobs.
And the increase wasn't just in temp jobs, whether through agencies or with the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, according to the Connecticut Department of Labor report released Thursday, government employment was one of the few sectors that shrank, and the category that includes temporary services was flat.
But Connecticut's unemployment rate went from 9.1 percent in February to 9.2 percent last month, the highest since 1976, although still below the national unemployment level of 9.7 percent.
"As things will start to look better, people are going to jump into the labor force and the unemployment [rate] will rise. That's what happened this month," said Fairfield University economist Ed Deak, who serves on the governor's economic advisory council.
There were nearly 20,000 more job hunters in March than in March 2009.
Gary Griswold, 57, is one of the state's 175,000 job seekers. From his perspective, the economy absolutely is not improving. He was laid off from a managerial job at a mail distribution equipment company in November 2008.
"This is the longest I've been out of work since I was 16 years old. I was there for two years. It's a small company, they were taking a big hit on the economy," Griswold said.
Because he's living with his girlfriend in Plainville, he says the unemployment checks he receives are enough to stay afloat. He has 26 more weeks of benefits.
Griswold has had just one interview — for an assistant manager job in retail — since January. And at one of his interviews last year, he said the interviewer remarked that he'd had a generous salary in his last two positions.
He now underreports his last two salaries by $10,000 each on job applications.
He applies to a variety of positions, though he doesn't try for temporary jobs that would pay less than his unemployment.
"I start with management, I go with tech support, manufacturing," he said. "My resume is pretty diversified. It never seems to be enough. I understand these people are getting so inundated with resumes. You don't get any response."
Deak worries about the fate of older displaced workers like Griswold. He estimates that it will take four years for employment to return to normal. But he said the three-month job growth trend was nice, and that he's becoming more optimistic about how rapid the recovery will be.
West Haven resident Connie Phelps, 59, was laid off in November 2009 from an $80,000-a-year-job as director of conferences with Dolce Hotels and Resorts. She'd worked for the company for 15 years.
"I got called back by my same company that let me go," she said. "Business is picking up — they needed to add people back on. Here I am. It was awesome."
She was expecting her layoff to be permanent, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that her reputation made her desirable as a rehire. She returned to work at the Norwalk property Feb. 15.
Phelps took a $15,000 pay cut, and is now a rooms division manager. She said that since her daughter is grown, and her debt level is reasonable, the salary is working out fine.
"I know there'll be opportunity for that to go up," she said.
As business builds at the hotel — first-quarter revenue was ahead of forecasts — she's now doing some hiring herself. She recently hired a woman who'd been laid off as a receptionist at a cosmetic surgery practice to be a front desk agent.
Leisure and hospitality was the top jobs gainer in March, growing by 1,400. Educational and health services, which also has been strong through the recession, added 1,300 jobs. But sectors that were decimated by the recession — like construction and manufacturing — are recovering as well. Construction added 400 positions; manufacturing added 700.
Salvatore DiPillo, author of the labor department report, wrote that the job growth "gives us hope that this recession may be nearing its end."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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