Connecticut Recovery Shows Mixed Fortunes

Aug 18, 2014

David Lewis, president and CEO of Operations Inc.
Credit CBIA

Recent jobs numbers from the Connecticut Department of Labor showed some areas of the state recovering much better than others.

"The talent pool that can afford to live here is higher-end white collar, and those jobs are not as abundant."
David Lewis

Late last week, the state released figures for July job gains, the sixth straight month in which Connecticut employers have been hiring. The state overall gained a net 2,400 jobs in the month.

What was most striking was the distribution of those jobs. More than 90 percent of the gains were made in the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro: Fairfield County.

David Lewis said he doesn’t believe it. "I have to make the assumption," he said, "that this is once again a situation where the polling or the counting in some fashion is somehow out of kilter, because there’s just no evidence to support that kind of growth in the past couple of months."

Lewis runs Operations Inc., a human resources consulting business and a busy jobs board in the county. He said the market has been relatively flat this summer in his experience, and that Fairfield County’s recovery is being held back by familiar issues. "It’s traffic, and it’s the ability to live in this area – specifically the cost of living," he said. "The talent pool that can afford to live here is higher-end white collar, and those jobs are not as abundant, and typically have not shown themselves to be the kind that come back in this kind of a recovery."

On the other hand, one of the consistently weak areas of the state in the official figures has been southeastern Connecticut, which once again experienced job losses in July.

That rings true to Stephen MacKenzie of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region. "I’m not surprised," he said. "The region was the last into the recession back in 2008, and the reasons for that lead us to the explanation of why we might be the last out."

The major reason: over-reliance on just a few big employers. "Casino employment in 2008 was 21,000, and it’s right around 12,000 right now," MacKenzie said. "Pfizer went from 5,000 to 3,000." He said a resurgence of smaller manufacturers in the region, plus the good fortunes of another large employer, Electric Boat, may mean a turnaround soon, but the climb out has been long and hard.