Department of Labor (CTNewsJunkie file photo)

Connecticut has almost reached pre-pandemic levels of employment, according to newly released data from the Labor Department. 

Friday’s report showed that Connecticut had added 35,300 jobs throughout 2022 and the private sector recovered 94.6% of the jobs lost. At the same time, the state’s labor pool shrank by about 25,000 workers. Connecticut businesses still have about 100,000 job vacancies they are trying to fill, indicating that many industries are dealing with labor shortages. 

“This is positive news that speaks to the underlying strength of the state’s economy,” Connecticut Department of Labor Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo said. “Connecticut’s unemployment rate remains low and stable. Workers are actively benefiting from the opportunities afforded by the strong jobs market, and weekly unemployment benefit filing continues to be below pre-pandemic levels.” 

The state is also seeing record-level lows in unemployment. 

“Our unemployment rate has now fallen to 3.9% which is the same as it was in February of 2020 before the pandemic. So the level of unemployment is back to where it was and our jobs are growing,” said CT DOL spokesperson Juliet Manalon

The Connecticut Business & Industry Association applauded the jobs numbers, while also lamenting the potential negative employment impacts that continued COVID-19 precautions could create. 

“We’re coming up on four years since COVID upended our economy and must accelerate efforts to solve the worker shortage crisis, which remains the biggest threat to our economy,” said CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima. “Policymakers are considering numerous proposals addressing the factors driving the worker shortage and it’s critical they seize this opportunity to implement meaningful, sustainable solutions.”

DiPentima also called for additional state efforts to encourage business owners to remain in the state. 

“We need solutions that address the high costs of living and running a business here, that expand career pathways and support small businesses—not policies that will only drive employers away,” he said.

While restaurant employment levels are at about 99% of pre-pandemic levels, hotels are struggling to keep that pace. 

“The restaurant industry being back to pre pandemic levels tells me that people are out there willing to go out to dinner again and spend money. So that’s a sign of the strength of the economy,” the Labor Department’s Research Director Patrick Flaherty said. “A lot of business travel, which really was one of the largest revenue generators for the hotel industry has moved on to Zoom, and has moved on to other platforms. The weakness in the hotel industry to me is not a sign of weakness of the economy. It’s about a change in the way business is being conducted.” 

Health care employment rates are up among hospital workers and ambulatory care, but nursing homes continue to lag behind pre-pandemic levels. During the pandemic numerous nursing homes across the country became epicenters for COVID-19 breakouts. This led to a decrease in demand for nursing home care, as well as a decrease in those seeking employment at nursing homes. 

“There are two things that are going on there. One is that there may be some folks who are choosing not to go to a nursing home. They or their family are trying to find alternative forms of care,” said Flaherty. “On the other side we know there are hundreds of job openings in that industry. And so part of what’s keeping employment down is they cannot find all the folks that they would like to fill the positions that they have.” 

Finance, government and real estate businesses are struggling to recoup employment levels, in part, because of shifts in business models that further automation, particularly with apps. 

“What I really think is happening in finance is really about technology,” said Flaherty. “The number of jobs that support financial transactions has declined. We’re able to, with our phones, do financial transactions that just a few years ago might have taken five or six people. People are trading stocks on their phones. They’re not calling up a broker and having the teletype operator submit the trade to the stock exchange.”