Preliminary numbers from the Labor Department suggest Connecticut added 5,800 jobs last month, while the state unemployment rate held steady at 6.9 percent.
The May numbers represent a new “high point” for the state’s post-recession employment levels, according to a report released Thursday.
In May, 1,665,500 people were working in Connecticut. That’s 2,000 more than the previous high set in December 2013. But those December gains were tempered by a month of slowed growth in January, which Labor Department analysts attributed to that month’s harsh winter weather.
“Connecticut nonfarm job levels now exceed levels reached before the deep winter freeze set in during January, and are now at a new recovery high,” Andy Condon, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Research, said in Thursday’s report. “At this point, the resiliency of the recovery appears to be bringing people back into the labor force.”
In the past 51 months, the state has added 71,600 positions. That’s about 60.1 percent of the 119,100 jobs lost during the economic recession. Connecticut will need to add 47,500 jobs in order to reach pre-recession employment levels. Since February 2010, the state has added an average of 1,404 jobs per month.
Employment in the state’s private sector grew in May while the number of government jobs in Connecticut continued to decline over the year, according to the report. The professional and business services and the trade, transportation and utilities sectors led May’s job growth, adding about 2,300 and 2,000 jobs respectively. The state also made gains in the transportation, wholesale trade, manufacturing, and durable manufacturing sectors.
Meanwhile, it lost 900 jobs in the financial activities sector, which includes the real estate and insurance industries. Connecticut also lost about 800 jobs in the construction and mining sector.
Peter Gioia, an economist for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said the losses in those sectors were causes for concern. Although the nation as a whole has regained all of the jobs lost during the recession, Connecticut has only recovered 60 percent.
But Gioia said there were positive implications to the state unemployment rate remaining at 6.9 percent last month.
“If you take a look at the labor force, we’ve seen a gain of 13,000 participants. So that means more people are looking for work and because of that, you’ll have somewhat elevated unemployment,” he said.
Last month, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told reporters it has been his goal to get the state unemployment rate beneath 7 percent. “It’s been a struggle — but it’s been a goal,” he said.
Malloy’s spokesman, Andrew Doba, said Thursday’s report represents continued and steady progress.
“The last month was the best month for job growth for the year so far and we hope that trend continues,” Doba said.
However, Don Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research at DataCore Partners LLC, said the state’s job progress has been slow.
“The May job numbers were solid, but represented a ‘technical bounce’ off the weak data seen earlier in the year due to weather-related weakness,” he said in an email.
So far this year, employment has increased 0.5 percent, Klepper-Smith said, “so we continue to run at ‘half speed’ on job creation relative to our long-term growth rate of about 1.1 percent. After almost five years of economic recovery, the CT job market is making slow progress. At least we’re in the plus column.”