Humbling, but not hopeless

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Dawn Webster, 48, lost her $52,000-a-year job in March 2012 when the trucking company in Rhode Island where she had worked as office manager closed. In July 2012, she turned down a clerical job at a trucking company that offered $460 a week, $130 less than her unemployment check, and 46 percent of her old salary.

In May 2013, when her benefits were exhausted, she took the only job she could find: a restaurant hostess job in Danielson, 15 hours a week at $9 an hour. That’s 12 percent of her old earnings.

Webster was one of three Connecticut residents featured in a story in December 2012, and their experiences over the past 14 months provide a window into the humbling, but far from hopeless, prospects for people who took nine months or longer to replace a lost full-time job. To read the full story, go here.

About 200 Verizon Workers Face Choice of Relocating Out of State or Losing Job

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Verizon Wireless is consolidating workers into space it owns, and moving some functions to fewer locations, and about 240 local employees will have to apply for new jobs in Wallingford, transfer out of state, or take a severance package.

The employees were told Wednesday and will have to decide by May.

About 130 Verizon employees who work in Rocky Hill will begin working in Wallingford in May, without changing jobs. Another 80 customer service workers in Meriden will also see their jobs move to Wallingford.

There are 40 telemarketers, who also handle sales with incoming calls, whose jobs will be moving to either Orangeburg, N.Y., Tampa, Fla., or  California. Those workers can choose to transfer to any of those towns, earn their old Connecticut salaries, and receive a $10,000 after-tax relocation payment. The company will also contribute $500 toward the cost of visiting one of the new offices while the worker is weighing the decision.

About 200 customer service representatives in Meriden who specialize in large business and government clients will have to transfer to Hanover, Md., if they want to keep their jobs, and they are eligible for the same relocation benefits.

Spokesman Michael Murphy said Verizon expects to have about 45 customer service representative openings in May, so some of the workers whose jobs are moving could potentially stay in state in those jobs.

Companywide, about 2,200 workers will transfer to new offices within driving distance, and 3,000 employees will be encouraged to relocate, apply for other jobs locally or accept a separation package.

Murphy said the changes are being done solely for real estate reasons and for organizational efficiencies. “It’s not about reducing head count,” he said. “It’s not about job reduction.”

He said the workers who are affected are “incredibly well-trained, experienced employees,” and the company hopes they stay on in the new locations.

Entrepreneurship Largely Beyond Influence of Public Policy

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The Kauffman Foundation, a charity/think tank that focuses largely on entrepreneurial activity, job growth and education, says a lot of what people think matters in creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem doesn’t do a thing.

Having strong research universities? Nope. Having a lot of innovation, as measured by patents, in the region? Nope. Winning more National Institutes of Health funding or Small Business Innovation Research Grants? Not significant.

The Hartford region was strong on federal research money, and Fairfield was strong on patents, according to this analysis.

How much venture capital investment comes to your region? Irrelevant. In fact, the paper says explicitly, “Policymakers should not rush to create public venture funds in the hope of creating more startups or a startup culture.”

Connecticut recently pledged to dedicate $125 million over five years to its public venture fund precisely with that goal, though Connecticut Innovations has not been spending that fast.

Co-author Jordan Bell-Masterson said, “There’s not a whole lot of policy levers that you can pull that’s going to increase startup rates.”

How can this be? Well, for one, Kauffman makes a distinction between the frequency of the creation of new firms, and the concentration of new tech startups. (Tech being defined as aerospace, pharmaceutical, engineering services, scientific research, information technology and communications). There are regions that look good in tech entrepreneurship — think Boston and Silicon Valley — that still don’t do well on overall entrepreneurship.

The metro areas in the same size grouping as Hartford and Fairfield that did well in the broad business-creation category included Fort Myers and Sarasota, Fla.; Boise, Idaho; Colorado Springs, and Portland, Maine.

The paper does acknowledge that doing better in high-tech areas tends to correlate with fast-growing firms.

The Hartford region — which includes the University of Connecticut — and Fairfield County were weak on most measures, according to this analysis. The Hartford area ranked in the bottom quartile for all new businesses, and even lower for tech startups. Fairfield County was average for new businesses and also in the bottom quartile for tech startups..

But, oddly, the two areas did very well on high-growth firms per capita, arguably the most important measure of all. Fairfield County, in the years 2010 to 2012, was 34th in the country, top 10 percent, with 34 fast-growing firms. The Hartford area ranked 49th, still in the top 15 percent, with 12 fast-growing companies.

Basically, the factors that have the highest correlation with dynamic business creation, the authors found, were:

College education. Connecticut does very well on this. Very few states have a higher proportion of college graduates. And Fairfield County was particularly strong on the proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds with college degrees, a measure that was supposed to correlate well with entrepreneurial success. Fairfield was ranked 13th in the country by this measure.

How big your city is. Generally, the bigger the better. And if it’s growing fast, even better. “Larger metropolitan areas tend to have higher entrepreneurial rates, possibly from the diversity and resilience of their economies,” the authors write.

 Both the Hartford region and Fairfield County were a little below average in population growth, but not among the worst.

 

Tourism Spending Gets Results

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Revenue from the state’s lodging tax increased 8.5 percent in the first nine months of 2013 compared to the first nine months of 2012, the governor’s office said today.

The amount collected in lodging tax over the first nine months of 2013 was $667,010,321, and the amount of the increase was about $52 million.

While some of that increase was surely a rebound of business travel, that more than recoups the $22 million budgeted for tourism and economic development promotion over the last 18 months. The increase is just from stays, not from an increase in the hotel tax rates, because those went up in 2011. The increase was proportionally greater than the national hotel recovery, and than the rest of New England states.

In other metrics, visits to ctvisit.com have more than doubled compared to 2011, before the campaign began. The state’s tourism e-mail list has more than 580,000 subscribers, and they receive information about deals, events and activities around the state.

 

Jessica Kruh: “Just Don’t Give Up” When Looking For Work

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At the end of December, 22,581 people who still had eligibility left in Connecticut’s unemployment benefit system — people who had been looking for work more than six months and less than 63 weeks — were cut off, when Congress let extended benefits expire.

A majority of senators support bringing the benefits back, but not enough to overcome a filibuster, as was proven in another vote Thursday.

Jessica Kruh is back to work.  (Richard Messina | Hartford Courant)

Jessica Kruh is back to work. (Richard Messina | Hartford Courant)

What’s happened for them since then? In the case of Jessica Kruh, featured in a story on Dec. 12, she went back to work 10 days ago, at $2 an hour more than she made in her last job.

Kruh, 27, had been receiving $270 a week to support herself and her 5-year-old son since May, when she lost the $12.40-an-hour receptionist job she had held for two years. She had five job interviews between May and mid-December, but in most cases, she applied online and never heard back. For instance, when she applied for a call center job at The Hartford in October.

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Bankruptcy Judge Grants HealthBridge Long-Term Relief from Union Demands

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Even as a federal court contempt-of-court ruling is hanging over nursing home operator HealthBridge, the company won a victory in bankruptcy court in New Jersey.

HealthBridge, which is based in New Jersey, runs five unionized nursing homes and three non-union nursing homes in Connecticut. About 600 workers represented by Service Employees International Union went out on strike in July 2012. A federal judge ordered the company to take the strikers back at their pre-strike wages and benefits in December 2013. The company did hire them back, but immediately after, sought protection in bankruptcy court. That judge allowed the company to dramatically reduce benefits for the workers, the same proposals that sent the workers out on strike in 2012.

Monday, bankruptcy judge Donald Steckroth said HealthBridge deserved a four-year break on the benefits, rather than the series of temporary modifications he had granted. The company says if any one of the nursing homes has a profit of more than $500,000, there will be bonuses for union members.

Steckroth said without the union contract cram down, all the nursing homes would close, and said, “the union’s position has been intransigent.”

To read more, visit courant.com on Wednesday.

The Unbearable Vagueness Of Connecticut Data

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You might think that Connecticut’s unemployment is worse than the nation’s, since in December, national unemployment was 6.7 percent, and Connecticut’s was 7.4 percent. But the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says no, there is no statistically discernible difference.

Not only that, but the BLS says the decline from 8.2 percent unemployment to 7.4 percent unemployment over the year may be illusory — the difference in those two numbers is also not statistically significant.

And finally, the agency says, it can’t be sure that the state added any jobs in 2013, though the initial estimates say it added 11,500.

 

Weak Connecticut Job Growth

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Job creation in Connecticut was anemic in 2013, with just 11,500 jobs created for the year, about half the growth rate of the strongest years, and slower than in 2011.

The data, released by the Connecticut Department of Labor Monday, is based on preliminary surveys, and may be revised substantially in March, when economists finish a more complete analysis based on tax records.

In 2012, the revision added 8,000 jobs to the yearly tally, but Andy Condon, director of the department’s research office, said the revision is unlikely to be that large this year.

He said the revisions for the first nine months of 2013 are already in, and they are showing job creation numbers that were about 4,000 better than initial estimates. If the last quarter of the year was flat, as initial estimates suggest, “We’d show something like 15,500″ for the full year, he said. That would be best year since 2006, when the state added 23,100 jobs.

The report on jobs and unemployment said that the state’s employers cut 3,900 more jobs than they added in December, and that seasonally adjusted first-time claims for unemployment increased 12 percent from November to December, an increase of about 550.The same report, however, said unemployment fell to 7.4 percent, and that the improvement was largely as people found jobs, not because they retired, went back to school or quit looking.

The national unemployment rate in December was 6.7 percent.

Over the year, the largest job losses were in manufacturing, where there were 4,000 fewer jobs in the state than when the year began, a drop of 2.5 percent; financial services and real estate, with 1,300 fewer jobs; government, with 1,300 fewer jobs.

Private education and medical jobs grew the most, with 7,900 new positions, and construction grew 5,800, the largest percentage increase by far, at 11 percent.

Why You Should Try Like the Dickens To Find Any Job When You’re First Laid Off

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Economists have shown repeatedly that you’re much less likely to be called for a job interview when you’ve been out of work more than six months, even if your work experience is a better match than those who have been out of work only a month.

But a new paper distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that even when you do get re-hired, the longer you’re out, the bigger a wage cut you’ll end up accepting.

The economists looked to see if the job seekers were accepting lower pay because the jobs were better in some other way — a shorter commute or staying in your previous field. (When you change to another industry or occupation, you tend to have a much larger decline in salary.) Neither turned out to be the case. In fact, the longer you’re out of work, the more likely it is you’ll have to change fields.

The economists said the lower wages the job seekers ended up receiving were not because they were suddenly willing to accept lower wages once their benefits were close to ending or did end. In fact, the job seekers had remarkably stable expectations for what they wanted to earn.

Basically, the data show that job seekers rarely turn down jobs during their search, and it’s just that the longer you’re out of work, the more likely employers are to see you as damaged goods. Once they believe that if you were a competent employee, someone else would have already put you back to work, your value to them drops.

Hiring Hasn’t Improved, But Fewer Layoffs Helping Job Market

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The amount of hiring was stable in November 2013 compared to the same month the year earlier, according to a report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

No region of the country outperformed another. Nationwide, four million people were hired in November, same as a year earlier.

But the job market is improving because the number of layoffs is falling — 1.5 million people were let go last November, compared to 1.7 million in November 2012. The Midwest and Northeast had the best improvement, but all regions had fewer job cuts.

Over the 12 months ending in November, there were 53 million people hired and 51 million people who quit, were fired, were downsized, or died on the job.