Connecticut’s employers hired briskly in April, as both private companies and government employers added positions, for a combined total of 6,300 new jobs.
The release Thursday from the state Department of Labor was an encouraging report, said economist Pete Gioia, with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. But he said the state needs to add 25,000 jobs a year, rather than the 10,800 year-over-year improvement through April.
The last time the state added jobs that quickly was 1997, though the state broke the 20,000 mark in 1999 and in 2006.
“Let me see four or five of these in a row,” Gioia said. Jobs numbers for Connecticut have been quite erratic in the last several years, with promising months soon followed by terrible ones.
The unemployment rate, which is estimated by a different survey with a smaller sample size, remained at 8 percent in April. It hasn’t changed appreciably in Connecticut in the last year. In the U.S. in April, the unemployment rate was 7.5 percent.
The state has recovered less than half the jobs lost from 2008 to 2010, while the country as a whole is 70 percent of the way back to pre-recession job levels.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gioia said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
In the first four months of 2013, the state has already added more than the 8,600 jobs added all year in 2012.
Kim Olsen, who lost her job running MetLife’s mortgage operations in Connecticut when the office closed in March 2012, got back to work in January.
Olsen, who had opened the MetLife office in 2009, took a step down in responsibility when she became a mortgage processor for PrimeLending, when it opened a new office in Danbury.
A former coworker is running that office — Olsen said all of her 35 or so colleagues from MetLife who wanted to work again have returned to work.
She gets to work from home in Middletown, and only had to take a roughly 10 percent pay cut, but she noted the MetLife job was a step down in pay from the job she held for 13 years in Chase Bank.
“I’ve been on this downward slide for five years now,” said Olsen, 48. “I’m going in the wrong direction.”
Average hourly earnings in the state are down 1.2 percent from a year earlier.
Gioia said the small and medium-sized businesses that make up the bulk of CBIA’s membership have been somewhat more positive about the economy lately, but he said: “The big overhang question with a lot of companies I think is Obamacare.”
Construction is finally lifting the economy, both locally and nationally. The number of jobs in construction is up nearly 8 percent compared to a year ago, the fastest job growth in any sector. Hotels and restaurants were second, with almost 6 percent more jobs than a year ago.
Two important, well-paying sectors in the state have fewer jobs than they did a year ago — manufacturing and finance and insurance.
George Worrall III, has been looking for work since January, when he had to leave his civilian, full-time job with the Air National Guard because he left the National Guard. He served in the military for nearly 29 years, reaching the rank of lietenant colonel.
Worrall, 47, was the only source of income for his family of four, as his wife has been a stay-at-home mother for 10 years. She has looked for jobs, too, recently, but he thinks he has more earning potential.
He said he had an interview Wednesday for a commission-only job doing insurance estimates for storm damages around the state. If the homeowners chose the restoration company he represented, he would be paid.
“The potential for income is really good, I kind of like the idea of being outside,” Worrall said. “You can set your own schedule.”
Worrall has applied to dozens of jobs, many in marketing, where the bulk of his experience has been, but in every case, only got automated replies.
“You read about a position, you say, ‘Wow that sounds pretty interesting,’ tweak your resume to make sure it highlights what they’re looking for, write a new cover letter. None of those blind applications have worked.”
One with LEGO, that seemed like a really good match with his experience, not only didn’t lead to an interview, he saw it readvertised this week after he applied months ago.
He drove up from his home in East Hampton to two job fairs in East Hartford in the last month, one specifically for veterans, but he said the face-to-face networking doesn’t seem to provide much of an edge.
“I even noticed at the job fair, the name tags didn’t have last names on them,” he said, and the cards the recruiters handed him just directed him to online portals.
He said one of the marketing jobs listed at the booth for Mohegan Sun had been filled before the fair.
The only two interviews came from job fairs, both for commission-only sales jobs.
“It seems like there’s so many people out looking,” he said.
Still, Worrall considers himself fortunate. He’s collecting a military pension, and another $22 a week in unemployment.
“We certainly had to make a lot of personal changes at home, in order to live without two-thirds of our salary we’re used to,” he said. But he knows many families don’t have savings to draw on, as they did.