Connecticut’s unemployment rate barely budged in September, falling from 9 percent to 8.9 percent in a month when employers added 2,000 jobs.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Thursday suggested that Connecticut may not be following the national recovery. Across the country, the September unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. However, the pace of jobs added in September in the state was identical to the national hiring trend.
Connecticut’s unemployment rate in September 2011 was 8.6 percent.
The new labor report also said the news was worse in August than originally thought. Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the state ended August with 6,800 fewer jobs than at the beginning of the month. Now it estimates there was a net loss of 7,500 jobs.
Nick Perna, an economist who consults for Webster Bank, said that number is probably still not accurate. But that doesn’t mean the news is good, he said.
“Relative to our past performance, we’ve lost ground, and relative to the nation we’ve lost ground,” Perna said. “Both are disconcerting.”
What’s also worrisome is that even when long-term unemployed people land full-time jobs again, they’re frequently taking substantial pay cuts, according to a state labor department analysis.
Christina Strain of Stamford was hired in August by Stamford’s Riverbank Volkswagen. She was out of work for 22 months before starting her new job as an appointments coordinator. Strain, 50, had been a legal secretary making a good wage but was laid off when the lawyers she worked for in Stamford moved to a New York law office.
In her new job, she makes less than half of what she used to make — and less than what her unemployment check had been, she said. Her benefits were exhausted in May, after 83 weeks.
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” she said. But she said there is opportunity for advancement at the dealership, and she’s happy to be working again. She’d been laid off more than once during her career in administrative support positions, but had always found another job within a month until this recession.
“I was really climbing the four walls, and I was tired of staring at them constantly,” she said Thursday.
Even with her husband holding onto his longtime job, she had to tap her retirement savings. And next year, the couple may have two kids in college at once.
Finding a job hasn’t convinced Strain that the economy is getting better. “I have some friends that are still unemployed,” she said, and she knows others who want a better job than the one they have and can’t find anything.
Perna said the monthly figures are “a crude measure of economic progress,” because all they reveal is whether people are working not how big a step back they had to take in their careers to get a job.
“You really want to look at incomes,” he said. “Right now it’s overshadowed by preoccupation with unemployment and the body count, as it were.”
Still, there is a spot of hope in the report. Next year, there will be a full accounting of job growth for 2012, as the government gets access to complete payroll data, as opposed to basing its estimates on a survey. The first glimpse of that data suggests that the reports have been too pessimistic this year — that some of the businesses that have been hiring have not been responding fully to the survey.
Once the full picture is known, Andy Condon, director of research at the Connecticut Department of Labor, expects job growth in 2012 will show between 9,000 and 10,000 more jobs than have been captured so far. But unless the last three months of the year reflect faster hiring, the year will still be a disappointing one.
A good year for hiring in Connecticut is a year where about 20,000 jobs were added in the state. Even with the upward revisions, the state wouldn’t hit that mark.