As Lamont ups vaccine pressure, state sees job gains
With an estimated net gain of 9,400 jobs in July, Connecticut has recovered two-thirds of those lost during the COVID-19 pandemic according to projections by the state Department of Labor based on surveys.
Just over 1.6 million people were employed in Connecticut as of July, according to DOL estimates, about 83,000 jobs short of the total in February 2020 before mass business closures to contain COVID-19.
On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont gave his first news conference focused on COVID-19 since May, noting increases in infection rates as the Delta variant of the virus edge higher. Having already required vaccines for nursing home workers, and has now added state workers in hospitals. And the state will require all state employees who do not get vaccines to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing, as well as school and early education workers with exemptions for health or religious reasons.
“We’re following the lead of ... companies around our state — and I think other companies around the state are now going to follow our lead,” Lamont said Thursday. “I want Connecticut to take the lead in terms of employees getting vaccinated.”
Connecticut’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent in July, down from 7.7 percent in June. That remains above the U.S. unemployment rate of 5.4 percent.
As of mid-August, about 130,000 people were filing weekly for unemployment benefits from the state of Connecticut, with the number having declined steadily this summer.
At the same time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported increasing numbers of workers in Connecticut and many other states quitting their jobs this spring, presumably in many cases to take better offers elsewhere. BLS plans to update its labor turnover survey reporting to a monthly basis starting in October, providing ongoing updates.
As of Thursday, the Indeed.com jobs board listed nearly 62,000 openings in Connecticut, a significant gain from last month. They ran the gamut from Celldex Therapeutics’ search for scientists in its New Haven lab to research treatments for cancer and inflammatory diseases; to a weaving job at the Elizabeth Eakins artisan rug studio in Norwalk offering $45,000 a year, full benefits and on-thespot training for those with a good eye for color.
With the new school year looming, more parents may be able to return to work to help fill available jobs, according to Dante Bartolomeo, interim commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Labor. Bartolomeo noted as well the expiration early next month of expanded weekly pay for people receiving unemployment compensation, which could result in more people seeking regular work.
“Some are finding higher-paying jobs, some are making major career changes,” Bartolomeo stated in a press release accompanying the latest jobs report. “It’s a
job seeker’s market and the timing works well with the end of federal programs approaching.”
But a select group find themselves having to update their resumes unexpectedly — including employees of People’s United Financial, which is cutting nearly 750 Connecticut jobs in advance of a planned merger with M&T Bank including hundreds of jobs at its Bridgeport headquarters, and another 250 in Vermont.
The leisure and hospitality industry added 1,000 jobs in July, but the actual number was likely far larger due to DOL classifying Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun resort employment as government jobs, given their operation on sovereign reservations.
Among the largest employment sectors, construction had the biggest increase on a percentage basis, adding 1,500 jobs in July for a 2.7 percent increase.