Before CT lost 100,000 jobs to coronavirus, it added 7,300 in early 2020

Photo of Paul Schott

Connecticut added 4,000 jobs in February, while unemployment held steady in the state’s last month before being struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the state Department of Labor.

February’s numbers built on promising results in the previous month. January’s originally calculated job increase of 2,600 was revised up to 3,300.

At the same time, Connecticut’s unemployment rate ran at 3.8 percent, compared with 3.7 percent in January. The national rate ran at 3.5 percent last month.

“This was the sixth month in a row of payroll job growth. Unfortunately, with the impact of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we can expect payroll jobs to decline as a result of sharply increased layoffs and furloughs,” said Andy Condon, director of the Department of Labor’s office of research, in a written release.

In the past year, total employment (not including agriculture) in the state grew by 13,300 positions, equal to a 0.8 percent gain.

The gains are likely to be wiped out, in the short run at least, by the coronavirus crisis. Since Friday, March 13, well over 100,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits. The department has pushed the expected processing time from three days to more than two weeks, and has not released new figures for unemployment claims.

It’s still not clear what the unemployment rate would be based on the more than 100,000 claims, and even what that means — since the assumption is most of those workers are jobless only until the emergency subsides.

In February, just over 40,000 people were receiving jobless benefits.

The gains of the first two months of 2020 could be revised even without the effects of the coronavirus crisis. In 2019, the state initially reported a gain of 6,500 jobs, based on annual averages compared with 2018. That was later revised by the department to a loss of 2,100. State unemployment last year averaged 3.7 percent, in line with the national average.

In the 12 months ending in February, education and health services led all sectors with a 2.2 percent year-over-year job gain. Next came professional and business services with an uptick of 1.3 percent.

Construction, financial activities, government, information, manufacturing and trade, transportation and utilities each recorded year-over-year job increases of less than 1 percent.

Leisure and hospitality and the “other services” category were the only groups to lose jobs in the past year, as both saw their statewide headcounts drop by less than 1 percent.; Twitter: @paulschott