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Connecticut jobless rate drops below 5% for the first time since the pandemic began

A "now hiring" sign is posted in the window of a restaurant in Los Angeles, California.
Frederic J. Brown
Getty Images
A "now hiring" sign hangs in the window of a Los Angeles restaurant on Jan. 28, 2022. In the final month of 2021, Americans dialed back their spending even as incomes rose thanks to wage increases, while inflation showed signs of moderating, according to government data released on Jan. 28, 2022.

The Connecticut economy continued its comeback in February from pandemic-induced job losses. Employment data from the state Department of Labor out Thursday shows that Connecticut has recovered more than 80.5% of the jobs lost since the COVID lockdowns in March and April 2020.

The unemployment rate hit a recovery milestone in February when it dropped to 4.9% — the first time it fell under 5% since April 2020.

But Connecticut’s overall job recovery has been slower compared to the rest of the country. The nation’s unemployment rate fell to 3.8% in February, while the state was over one percentage point higher at 4.9%. Connecticut’s job losses were less severe for the first few months of the pandemic, with its worst rate of unemployment at 11.4% in May 2020. The country hit a low point of 14.7% of the workforce out of a job. Prior to the pandemic, Connecticut’s unemployment rate had reached its lowest in 10 years, at 3.4%.

But February looked strong for Connecticut.

“Health care was a strong performer in February adding 2,500 jobs in one month — that is significant, especially since this sector has been lagging,” said Patrick Flaherty, director of the Office of Research at the Connecticut Department of Labor.

The report shows that a peak of omicron cases in December and January dampened the state’s economy, according to DOL Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, the labor market has shown underlying strength with job growth increasing at moments of low infection rates. February continues this pattern,” Bartolomeo said.

Unemployment claims also fell last month. Despite that good news, the latest data was measured before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. DOL officials expect the war to dampen economic growth, especially consumer behavior and transportation, in the months to come.

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She loves hearing what you thought of her stories or story ideas you have so please email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org.

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