Leisure, education drives CT hiring as state adds nearly 8K jobs

Connecticut’s unemployment rate dropped at an accelerated pace in May, to 7.7 percent according to Department of Labor estimates based on surveys of businesses statewide.

DOL estimated that Connecticut employers hired 7,800 people in May, up from a gain of just 1,200 jobs in April (revised upward from a prior estimate of 500 new jobs). DOL reported that Connecticut has recovered 63 percent of the jobs it lost at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last March and April when many businesses were forced to close their premises in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

DOL estimates Connecticut employment is now about 11,000 jobs short of 1.6 million. The state’s all-time peak employment occurred in July 2008, when employment crossed the 1.7 million threshold by 8,600 jobs.

The May unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent the previous month and 8.3 percent in March. In comments posted online, DOL research director Patrick Flaherty said the 0.4 percentage-point decline in May represented a large decrease for any single month.

Flaherty noted an increase in education jobs could be the result of increased summer programming by schools in advance of the coming academic year.

In advance of the DOL report on Tuesday, Gov. Ned Lamont highlighted schools in talking up some of Connecticut’s appeal to employers, while in Stamford to commemorate Philip Morris International’s plans to move its headquarters from New York City.

“We have a great workforce development program,” Lamont said. “You got to continue reinventing yourself. I come out of the private sector — if you don’t reinvent yourself you get run over.”

Few sectors had to reinvent themselves more dramatically during the pandemic than restaurants, which were forced to switch to outdoor service and delivery after Lamont forced the closure of their main dining rooms last year with a gradual phased return to indoor dining.