Updated: Oct 1
An analysis from our new writer, Derek Cameron, on the employment status of CT.
Written by Derek Cameron
Edited by Gabriel Agüero, Benjamin Peters, and Connor Dudas
A new report published earlier this month revealed that Connecticut's employers have added 3,300 jobs to the state's job market last August, denoting eight consecutive months of job increases since the beginning of 2021. These gains represent a conspicuous decline from the increase of 11,100 jobs recorded in July, with the spread of the Delta variant causing public health concerns and the reinstatement of several public health protocols. According to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and manufacturing sectors contributed to the bulk of this increase, having recorded significant employment growth during that month. Many have cited these statistics as a source of optimism, with Interim Department of Labor Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo asserting that they are trending "in the right direction" and CBIA President and CEO Chris DiPentima referring to them as "welcome news for Connecticut's pandemic recovery."
However, some causes for concern do exist in Connecticut's job growth trends. Despite the prolonged streak of employment gains, Connecticut's year-to-date job growth remains merely two-thirds of the national average and is considered the slowest in New England. Connecticut has also recovered a relatively scant 69 percent of its March-April 2020 employment decline, the lowest percentage in New England and below the national average of 76 percent. Furthermore, it is predicted that while nationwide employment should return to its pre-pandemic peak in nine months, Connecticut's employment statistics are not likely to do so until one year later. This recovery also does not appear to have benefitted each region in the state equally; Fairfield County recorded the largest employment increase (1%), whereas the Hartford and Waterbury labor market areas recorded growth rates of merely 0.5 and 0.6 percent, respectively. This disparity is generally the result of the relative prominence of the advanced manufacturing and professional service sectors in its economy, in addition to its rather highly-skilled labor force and proximity to New York City (from which many residents and businesses have relocated during the Coronavirus pandemic). Certain sectors of the economy have also been left behind by this recovery: the education and healthcare services sectors recorded a decrease of 1,200 jobs last August. In sum, Connecticut's coronavirus employment recovery appears to be gradual, anemic, and suffering from a number of disparities in different sectors and regions.
The causes of this phenomenon remain a matter of substantial controversy. The Connecticut Business and Industrial Association attributes this to supplemental unemployment benefits, childcare shortages, concerns surrounding the spread of the Delta variant, widespread retirements, and pandemic-induced disruptions in the supply chain, citing several economists. The first of these attributions is particularly controversial, employing the reasoning that these benefits provide many unemployed individuals with a comparatively higher standard of living, disincentivizing employment. Detractors tend to attribute this to employers paying indecently low wages and/or poor benefits. According to DiPentima, however, raising wages and benefits has already been employed to little effect by many businesses.
Conversely, Connecticut Voices for Children attributes the state's anemic job growth to 3 reasons:
vast and increasing income inequality across the Nutmeg State
governmental policies that predominantly favor the interests of wealthier residents, as opposed to their lower-and middle-class counterparts (refer to this month's publication on taxes), and
a decline in the political and electoral influence of the working class. coinciding with reduced labor union membership.
Due to this dispute, there is also substantial controversy surrounding how to improve Connecticut's employment growth. The business-oriented CBIA suggests establishing a public-private coalition for the purpose of developing, proposing, and implementing solutions to the supply-chain disruptions, child care shortages, health concerns, and retirement surges currently plaguing Connecticut's businesses. They only endorse this, however, if the expiration of supplemental unemployment benefits does not significantly impact employment growth. The more labor-oriented Connecticut Voices for Children, however, prefers an approach that includes various measures to shift the state's tax burden from middle-class to upper-class residents, increasing the bargaining power of employees, and eliminating systemic discrimination which they suggest is causing racial wage gaps. CT Voices for Children states that there is substantial evidence proving the efficacy of these measures has already been produced.
"August Jobs Report: 'Faucet Should Be Fully Running.'" Connecticut Business & Industry Association, 17 September 2021, https://www.cbia.com/news/economy/ct-august-2021-jobs-report/.
"CT Dept. of Labor: Job Growth Continues Upward Trend, Unemployment Rate Drops." Connecticut Department of Labor, State of Connecticut, 16 September 2021, https://portal.ct.gov/DOLCommunications/News/Press-Room/2021/CT-Dept-Of-Labor-Job-Growth-Continues-Upward-Trend-Unemployment-Rate-Drops.
"Fairfield Region." Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, State of Connecticut, https://portal.ct.gov/ChooseCt/Regions/Fairfield.
Green, Rick. "Connecticut has recovered 7 in 10 jobs lost due to the pandemic. Fairfield County leads monthly employment growth." Hartford Courant, 16 September 2021, https://www.courant.com/business/hc-biz-clb-connecticut-unemployment-august-20210916-2pxan3wv6nh6nba4mqjv6xvkh4-story.html.
O'Brien, Patrick R. "The State of Working Connecticut." Connecticut Voices for Children, September 2021, https://ctvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/SOWC-2021_Just-Research.pdf.
Stewart, Doug. "State employers added 11,000 jobs in July; unemployment continues downward trend." Fox 61, 16 September 2021, https://www.fox61.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/connecticut-jobs-added-unemployment-downward-trend/520-aa4f7ea8-8428-48ef-af5a-35acc8e77e91.
Vasile, Zachary. "Powered by Fairfield County, CT Sees Slight Population Growth in 2020 Census." Hartford Business Journal, 13 August 2021, https://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/powered-by-fairfield-county-ct-sees-slight-population-growth-in-2020-census.