She’s on the Other Side of the Hiring Desk After 8 Months of Unemployment

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For 19 of the 23 years Erin Londen worked for Enterprise Holdings, the family-owned rental car company never did a companywide layoff.

She survived that first round, and rode out the recession, and thought she’d be able to retire from the company. Enterprise had achieved record revenues and record profitability in 2011 and 2012. The company said it did $15.4 billion in sales that year.

But in March 2013, Londen, now 50, learned that her front-line management position was being eliminated. She supervised 13 people in a Bloomfield office. The team negotiated with car insurers to choose Enterprise’s car rental brands for when their customers needed a rental car to drive while their cars were being repaired.

Londen said that for the first several months, she wasn’t as focused in her job search. She received severance from her longtime employer, and she had unemployment benefits.

“I wasn’t very active in the beginning, I kind of enjoyed my summer,” she said.

In the fall, she enrolled in a human resources certificate program at University of St. Joseph, which cost $3,500, an amount she paid out of her savings.

She thinks enrolling in the program definitely made a difference in the job she found in January, though she is not a human resources specialist.

“They were impressed that I took the time to better myself,” she said.

Londen, who lives in Bristol, started going to JETS, the Jewish Employment Transitions Service, and was told networking would be her salvation. Over the next five months, she had two interviews from networking, and two interviews from jobs she applied to online. One was at her previous level, at Liberty Mutual. The other was entry level sales. She had applied for more than 100 jobs during the eight months she was out of work.

In the end, it wasn’t Londen’s networking, but a JETS director’s own connections that mattered. Lesro, a manufacturer with 92 employees in Bloomfield, asked JETS’ Judy Rosenthal to pick candidates for an office manager job. The company did not advertise the position to the public.

Londen was hired, and at a salary higher than the $68,000 she earned with Enterprise.

She manages 12 employees, oversees accounts payable, does the payroll, recruiting and hiring. Lesro — which means Londen — is now looking for a part-time customer service representative and a full-time job that covers some sales and marketing, some spreadsheet work and some customer service.

This time, JETS was not a productive pool — everyone was overqualified, Londen said, and she was concerned they would leave quickly. So she went to the Connecticut Department of Labor, and has gotten 15 applications. She’s doing six phone interviews this week.

It’s great being on the other side of the desk.

Long-term Unemployed No More

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Unemployed single mother Katherine Hackett, of Moodus, introduces U.S. President Barack Obama before he urged Congress to act and extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits while at an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on Jan. 7, 2014.    (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Unemployed single mother Katherine Hackett, of Moodus, introduces U.S. President Barack Obama before he urged Congress to act and extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits while at an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on Jan. 7, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

The Connecticut woman who appeared with President Obama in January to represent the long-term unemployed has found work managing a Windsor nursing home.

“It was a godsend,” said Katherine Hackett, who lost her job as a nursing home administrator in July 2013. “I didn’t have any income at all, so it was really a blessing,” she said.

A headhunter recruited her for the job, and her hiring March 7 meant she was able to stop dipping into her retirement savings.

“It’s an interim position, but I’m very pleased to have it,” Hackett said Monday. “It’s wonderful, it’s what I love to do, I love getting up in the morning.”

Hackett, who lives in East Haddam, and more than 22,000 others in Connecticut, were losing unemployment checks because Congress dropped its support for job seekers. States generally cover a half year of checks, and until December 28, the federal government had been extending the support, depending on how high unemployment was in each state.

At the time, she said as a single woman without unemployment checks, her ability to support herself had a brief horizon. “I’ll be all right for six months or so, but I don’t know what I’m going to do after that. It’s frightening, I tell you,” she said.

Her new job will last only until the nursing home chain moves another manager to the Windsor location because that manager’s nursing home is being sold to another operator. The same sort of corporate shakeup at a different nursing home company is why Hackett, 58, found herself unemployed last year.

She said she’s not waiting until she finds out when the interim job is ending before searching for another job.

Hackett, who was out of work eight months, and couldn’t even get a job as a grocery store cashier, said such a long, unsuccessful job hunt is discouraging, but the only option is to keep trying. “It’s very difficult but you have to get up every day and just have a positive frame of mind.”

On Jan. 7, Hackett joined Obama at a news conference to ask Congress to restore long-term jobless benefits, Later that month, U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, brought her as his guest at the State of the Union address.

The Senate voted to restore federal support for the unemployed, with back payments to job seekers to cover January through May, or whenever they found jobs. The House of Representatives has not brought the bill to a vote.

Strong Month for Job Growth in March

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Connecticut’s employers added 4,900 jobs in March, with restaurants, hotels, and retail jobs accounting for much of the gains.

It was a return to moderate job growth after harsh weather in January and February. The report, released by the Connecticut Department of Labor on Thursday, also said that February’s job growth was better than initial estimates suggested, with the job force growing by 1,400 rather than 800 positions.

Compared to a year earlier, the state has 9,400 additional jobs.

The unemployment rate, which is determined from a separate, smaller survey, was unchanged in March, at 7 percent.

The study also showed that wage gains continue to be anemic. The average private sector worker’s earnings increased 1.4 percent compared to March 2013, and inflation increased 1.5 percent during that period.

Factory Closing, 142 to be displaced

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Minnesota-based 3M will be closing a factory in Enfield that employs 142, and moving the work to two factories in Minnesota and one in Mexico.

The company owns three factories in the state, in Stafford Springs, Enfield and Meriden, the former headquarters of Cuno, founded there 102 years ago and sold to 3M in 2005.

The Meriden facility employs 311 and Stafford Springs employs 152.

“Everyone who is affected by this transition will have the opportunity to apply for other jobs anywhere in 3M,” said spokeswoman Donna Fleming Runyon. “We believe that several people will be able to move to Stafford Springs.”

The Enfield factory has 24 salaried positions and 118 production jobs.

“We told our employees about this at the end of February,” she said, and the phasing out of production in February will be completed by the end of the year.

‘The bill is now stalled… this is an absolute moral outrage.’

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At the end of last year, the amount of time the unemployed could collect benefits in Connecticut fell from a year and 11 weeks to half a year.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill this week that would retroactively pay long-term unemployed from January through through the end of May, or until the point they found jobs.

Both of Connecticut’s senators and two of the five House members held a press conference Friday protesting opposition to the bill by House Speaker John Boehner.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said although six Republican senators joined 53 Democratic senators, “the bill is now stalled because the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, refuses to bring it up for a vote. This is an absolute moral outrage.”

Murphy’s office invited several job seekers to speak about why a renewal of long-term benefits matters to them. Milva McGhee, 50, of Manchester, lost her job as a college administrator in June, and her benefits ended in February, she said.

Even though McGhee has found a little freelance work, and has a husband with a job, she said the end of her benefits has affected her family dramatically . “I’ve been dismantling the IRA,” she said.

Shari Cousin, of West Hartford, is receiving benefits since she lost her program director job at a nonprofit in December. Even with that support, and her husband’s salary, she said, “I also have had to tap into my retirement fund.” She said she only has nine weeks of checks left, and after the retirement plan is exhausted, “I’m concerned we could be homeless.”

For more, visit courant.com/business.

 

 

Connecticut Unemployment Rate Now 7%, Lowest in 5 Years

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Connecticut’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.2 percent to 7 percent in February, the lowest unemployment rate since January 2009, according to a release Thursday from the Connecticut Department of Labor.

The U.S. unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, and the difference between the two is likely illusory due to the margin of error in the state survey, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal agency that manages the data in this report.

The state’s employers added 800 jobs in February, after cutting 10,900 jobs in January.

“February’s job report seemed to confirm that weather was partly responsible for January’s sharp decline as we saw recovery in several of the industries that had stumbled,” said Andy Condon, director of the state labor department’s Office of Research.

The number of jobs in the state is up 10,300 compared to February 2013, a growth rate two and a half times slower than the nation’s job growth.

Over that period, durable goods manufacturing, the great majority of the state’s manufacturing sector, had the most job erosion, with 4,000 fewer jobs than a year ago. Government cutbacks were the second biggest drag on employment, with a net loss of 3,700 jobs. The economically important finance and insurance sector is also continuing to contract, and has 1,700 fewer jobs than it did a year ago.

The construction sector had the fastest growth, at 7 percent, and 3,800 additional positions. Hotels and restaurants added the largest number of jobs, at 6,200 over the year. Health care and social assistance jobs continue to grow, and those fields have 3,900 more jobs in February than a year earlier.

January Sees Huge Job Hit, Weather Likely A Factor

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Connecticut’s jobs base had a net loss of 10,400 jobs in January, the Connecticut Department of Labor said Friday.

The nation’s employers added 129,000 jobs that month, about 60,000 fewer than the average over the last several years, a result that was also attributed to heavy snowstorms and very cold temperatures.

Retail, restaurants, temporary workers and insurance and finance jobs all dropped in big numbers in the month of January, the report said. Insurance and finance, where the total number of jobs fell by 1,600, is unlikely to be weather dependent.

Connecticut’s Job Market Has Best Year Since 2006

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Connecticut employers added 18,400 jobs in 2013, a 1.1 percent growth rate and the best year since 2006, just before the Great Recession, new employment figures released Friday show.

In 2006, the state’s employers added 23,300 jobs.

While the economy’s strength was significantly better than in the first three years of the recovery, when job growth ranged between 10,500 and 14,300, it’s still not fast enough growth to make up for the large losses in 2008 and 2009.

In 2008, the state’s jobs base shrank by 32,600 jobs. In 2009, the state’s employers slashed a net total of 66,200 jobs.

The unemployment rate fell from 8 percent in January 2013 to 7.4 percent in December 2013. Both numbers are seasonally adjusted.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, in a written statement reacting to the report, said the data “is yet another sign that we are making progress in turning our economy around.”

“Clearly,” he said, “we have much more work to do. But we are making steady progress in our effort to create good paying jobs with good benefits for middle class families in Connecticut.”

To read about January’s huge job losses, click here.

Only State Where Working Is Worse Is Mississippi?

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Most years, a random sample of Connecticut residents say they’re pretty happy and healthy. Each year Gallup and Healthways interview people about their moods, their physical health, their eating and exercise habits, their basic economic needs and their life satisfaction. Over the five years the survey has run, the Nutmeg state’s average ranking was 19. Not as blissful as Hawaii, which was generally home to the happiest, healthiest residents, and below three other New England states, but not too shabby.

In 2013, the survey’s results took a much darker tone. The composite score in 2012 had been 67.6, and in 2013, it was 65.9. The national average in 2013 was 66.2. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but because all the states are clustered between 61 and 70, that made Connecticut fall from 16th happiest, healthiest state to 31st.

We still had a very high score for the proportion of the population who’s financially comfortable, and how healthy we are, but folks are not happy about their bosses. There was a big drop in people who said their supervisors treat them like a partner.

So the survey says that we have the second-worst work environment, just above Mississippi, where pay is lowest. Connecticut workers have the highest pay in the nation.

 

 

Obama: Expand Earned Income Tax Credit for Those With No or Grown Children

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About 142,000 Connecticut residents would get more money or be newly eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit if President Obama can sell this part of his budget proposal. The budget rolled out Tuesday.

The EITC returns payroll taxes paid by the working poor, and in some cases, gives them checks beyond all the federal taxes they paid. About $63 billion a year is distributed to 32 million working families through both the EITC and the child tax credit. In Connecticut in 2012, workers received $438 million in federal tax refunds from these credits.

People who don’t have children living with them can qualify for the EITC, but for these workers, the payments are very small. For the average worker who’s childless, whose kids are grown, or whose kids live with the other parent, the refund is just $264. For the average custodial parent, the EITC pays $2,905.

Obama wants to increase the EITC for the childless to $1,000 from the current maximum of $487. He would also expand eligibility for independent adults 21 to 24 and for workers who are 65 and 66. Students who are still claimed on their parents’ taxes would continue to be ineligible.

He also would increase the earnings ceiling for phasing out the credit.

Nationwide, 7.7 million people who currently qualify for the EITC would receive larger checks and 5.8 million people would be newly eligible. The expansion would increase the cost of the program by less than 10 percent, with an estimated $60 billion in refunds over the next decade.

Obama suggests the cost of the expansion be offset by revenue from closing tax loopholes on private equity managers, hedge fund titans and real estate developers, who are allowed to take much of their wages as capital gains rather than salary, which means they pay a lower tax rate.

Commentators have said Obama’s budget priorities are dead on arrival. Last week, U.S. Rep Paul Ryan, head of the House Budget committee and a leader in shaping conservative spending priorities, praised the EITC as more effective than raising the minimum wage. Tuesday, he released a statement that said: “This budget isn’t a serious document; it’s a campaign brochure.”