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CT Labor Commissioner calls workforce 'resilient'

A graph shows Connecticut's expected unemployment rate and revised unemployment since the pandemic. Revised data show a lower jobless rate than initially expected.
State of Connecticut Department of Labor
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Revised data from the State of Connecticut Department of Labor out Friday show that in 2021, Connecticut's unemployment rate was lower in reality than sample data expected.

The Connecticut job market did better in 2021 than originally anticipated, according to data released Friday from the State of Connecticut Department of Labor. The DOL uses sample data to calculate unemployment throughout the year, and then revises data with actual job counts based on unemployment records. With the benchmarking done, a new picture reveals lower unemployment every month in 2021 than the sample data predicted.

Steven Lanza, Associate Economics Professor-in-Residence at the University of Connecticut, said, “the economy is coming back, we are recovering." The state has recovered 77.9% of the positions lost in March and April of 2020. Lanza said he believes that view lends itself to optimism for residents.

The current climate also looks more positive. In January 2022, the state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 5.3%, whereas in January 2021 it was 7.3%. But thanks to a surge in Omicron cases, this year hasn’t been completely smooth sailing. The state lost 700 jobs from December to January. But Department of Labor Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo said in this COVID surge, the decline and subsequent rebound of jobs were quicker. “We are resilient as a population and unfortunately, I suppose we are getting used to knowing and understanding how to handle this,” Bartolomeo said.

Not all industries are recovering from COVID-19 job losses at the same pace. Restaurant jobs are improving, but child care and nursing home jobs are below pre-pandemic levels, according to the DOL. Transportation, warehousing, and construction jobs are higher than they were before the pandemic. Leisure and hospitality positions, like in entertainment and dining, saw notable growth in 2021 at close to 20%.

Job losses in January were concentrated in a sector that includes temporary work. Patrick Flaherty, Director of the Office of Research at the Connecticut Department of Labor, said he thinks those workers left during the worst part of the surge and hopefully returned when it cleared up.

Younger women, in the age bracket to have children, and lower-wage workers have faced unemployment more often throughout the pandemic. Bartolomeo said that Connecticut has a higher workforce participation rate than the rest of the country, but during the pandemic, women have dropped out of the workforce more than men, and Connecticut’s women fall 2% below the national average for leaving the labor force. She sees that as a reflection of the extra responsibility working mothers have in caring for school-age children.

Employers are also having a hard time finding workers, according to this report. Flaherty said many factors make it hard to return to the workforce. “We did a survey of unemployed folks and they mentioned things like child care, transportation, and even access to stable housing,” he said. Early indications show that some workers took an early retirement, he said, and some have yet to realize that the jobs they left at the beginning of the pandemic no longer exist. But Flaherty encouraged imagination on the part of these workers, because there are jobs out there for those who want them.