Labor Department: CT added 3,500 jobs in June, recovering 65% of jobs lost at start of COVID-19

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Connecticut gained 3,500 jobs in June, marking its sixth straight month of rising employment, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the state Department of Labor.

The state has now recovered about 65 percent of the 292,000 jobs lost in March and April 2020, during shutdowns sparked by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the decrease last month of 600 private-sector positions, which offset the addition of 4,100 government jobs, shows that Connecticut’s economy still faces headwinds.

“It’s encouraging that jobs are up overall, but what’s a little troubling is that private-sector jobs were down by 600,” Eric Gjede, vice president of government affairs for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said in an interview. “It just demonstrates that we are in no way, shape or form completely out of the woods yet when it comes to recovery from the pandemic. We still have some challenges ahead of us.”

Alongside the 0.2 percent increase in jobs, the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent in May to 7.9 percent last month.

As it does every month, the Labor Department also reported Thursday revisions in the previous month’s numbers. Last month, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the state’s May unemployment rate at 7.7 percent. The updated numbers showed, however, that the May jobless rate did not change from the April level of 8.1 percent. At the same time, the Labor Department revised the May jobs gain from 7,800 to 8,100.

The increased unemployment rate in May likely indicates that additional workers were entering the job market, according to Labor Department officials. Those who are not looking for work are not counted in jobless rates.

Last month, four of the state’s 10 major industries expanded their employment, while six saw declines.

Job statistics

Connecticut added a total of 3,500 jobs in June, but a number of sectors saw declines in employment.

Government: +4,100 (month-over-month change in jobs)

Other services: +2,400

Leisure and hospitality: +1,600

Professional and business services: +200

Trade, transportation and utilities: -1,400

Construction and mining: -1,000

Financial activities: -700

Manufacturing: -700

Education and health services: -600

Information: -400

Source: Connecticut Department of Labor

In addition to the increase in public-sector employment, the “other services” industry gained 2,400 jobs, leisure and hospitality picked up 1,600 and professional and business services added 200.

Trade, transportation and utilities lost the most jobs in June, with a reduction of 1,400 positions. Construction and mining shed 1,000 jobs, and financial activities and manufacturing each lost 700. There were declines of 600 in education and health services and 400 in information.

“Private-sector jobs are up 8,100 over two months as the uneven monthly pattern continues, even with some recent weakness,” Patrick Flaherty, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Research, said in a statement. “Construction and retail trade have regained 70 percent or more of the jobs lost during the pandemic. The same is true for management of companies, accommodation and food services and private education which have added jobs in each of the past two months.”

Danté Bartolomeo, interim labor commissioner, said the June numbers reflected the resilience of Connecticut’s economy and workforce.

“After reaching a high of 392,000 weekly unemployment filers in May 2020, we are now at 165,000 weekly filers, and those numbers are trending down,” Bartolomeo said in a statement. “We have a long way to go — in a normal year we have about 40,000 claimants filing each week — but the labor numbers, and the filing numbers are going in the right direction.”

The declining unemployment claims in Connecticut align with a nationwide trend. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that jobless claims had dropped last week by 26,000 to 360,000 — the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

Connecticut’s containment of COVID-19, including one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, has bolstered its economic recovery.

Republican legislators remain, however, deeply concerned about the state’s economy, which had recovered in January 2020 only 83 percent of the jobs lost in its 2008-2010 recession.

“Young people in Connecticut are graduating to an unemployment pool of over 100,000 people,” state Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, the Senate minority leader, said last week. “Connecticut is dead last in the nation in job growth and income growth.”

But many major companies still believe in the state, with last month ranking as one of its biggest ever for corporate recruitment.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International is relocating its headquarters to the state from Manhattan. Financial-technology firm iCapital Network is opening offices in Greenwich; manufacturer and technology-services provider ITT is moving its headquarters from White Plains, N.Y., to Stamford; and Tomo Networks, a new financial-technology firm focused on real estate, has established its headquarters in Stamford.

Those companies have cumulatively committed to bringing more than 550 jobs to Connecticut.

“When we’re attracting new businesses, that’s great news,” Gjede said. “We owe a lot to the governor holding his line and the emergence of a moderate group of folks in the legislature — both Republicans and Democrats — who have been doing the right things.”

pschott@stamfordadvocate.com; twitter: @paulschott