Despite adding 1,400 jobs in May, Connecticut’s unemployment numbers ticked up a tenth of a percent to 7.8 percent, according to the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report.
In the report, Andy Condon, director of DOL’s Office of Research, said people may be sensing better employment prospects and attempting to re-enter the workforce.
“Growth in the civilian labor force, if it continues, is a sign that more people are actively searching for work and is significant since the labor force had declined four months in a row,” Condon wrote.
In a statement, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expressed cautious optimism and pointed out that Connecticut’s unemployment rate is still below the national average of 8.2 percent.
“Given the fact that more people are trying to enter the workforce because they’re more optimistic they can actually find a job, the change in the unemployment rate is not a surprise; we saw an example of that increase in job seekers just yesterday in Norwich,” Malloy said.
“As I’ve said all along, changing an economy that failed to grow jobs in a meaningful way for a generation won’t happen overnight. But I am committed to seeing this through,” he said.
Peter Gioia, an economist from the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the jobs report showed “painfully slow” growth in the state’s economy.
Gioia said there was good news in the report “but we’re still 82,000 jobs behind where we were in March of 2008 and at this rate we’ve got a long, long way to go to get to where we need to be in terms of job growth in Connecticut.”
The Labor Department report supports Gioia’s assertion that the state is far from out of the woods with regard to the recession. Of the 117,500 non-farm jobs lost between March 2008 and February 2010, the state has recovered 34,900, or 29.7 percent. The private sector has fared a little better, having restored 39.6 percent of the 110,200 jobs lost during the recession.
The report notes that while the unemployment rate is up from where it stood in April at 7.7 percent, it’s down substantially from last May when it was at 8.9 percent.
However, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said the number is misleading.
“I personally believe unemployment is far higher,” he said. “Many people have just stopped looking and they’re not being counted. People are truly struggling out there.”
Cafero acknowledged that global markets play a role in the state’s economy and unemployment rates, but he said the state must take responsibility for what he called spending and policy problems.
As an example, he pointed to this week’s special session during which lawmakers passed a bill aimed at helping job growth. Cafero questioned how much the bill, which primarily expands business eligibility for pre-existing jobs programs, will actually accomplish. But it was another provision packaged in the same bill that Cafero said made the state look “schizophrenic” to businesses.
“Right next to it in the same bill is an increase in taxes on roll-your-own cigarette shops that will essentially put them out of business,” he said. “It’s schizophrenic policy. We’re doing nothing to help ourselves.”
The governor anticipated criticism in his press release on the report.
“It’s going to be easy for critics to say that what we’re doing in our state isn’t working. But the facts tell a different story: the most recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed Connecticut’s economy grew faster than 41 other states in 2011,” he said. “So while it’s clear we have a lot more work to do, it’s also clear we’re in the process of turning this thing around.”
Cafero said comparative statistics don’t help struggling job seekers. He said he could produce statistics as well, like one naming Connecticut the 44th most business friendly state.
“With all do respect, I’m so tired with the governor’s desperate search for some statistic that makes Connecticut look better than anyone else,” he said.
The state should stop making excuses and get its fiscal house in order, Cafero said.