CT job losses expected to increase

November 8, 2008 5:44:44 PM PST
Connecticut hasn't been losing jobs as fast as the rest of the country amid the turmoil in the financial industry, but economists believe that will be changing soon.The state could lose 60,000 to 80,000 jobs over the next year, said Don Klepper-Smith, chairman of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's economic advisory panel. He believes that most of the losses will be the result of southwestern Connecticut residents being laid off from their Wall Street jobs.

"It's going to be worse than the last recession" in 2001, Klepper-Smith said. "But it's not going to be as bad as the great recession from 1989 to 1992, in which the state lost 160,000 jobs.

The next two or three quarters are going to constitute tough sledding for businesses and consumers."

State labor economist John Tirinzonie is predicting a smaller but still significant job loss total for the next year - 25,000 to 35,000.

Connecticut's job total has remained essentially unchanged this year, but the state's economy has fared better than the nation's.

Economists credit a good mix of industries in the state, including aerospace, defense, health care and insurance, for providing resistance to recessionary pressures.

While the country has lost nearly 1 percent of total jobs this year, Connecticut has lost only a quarter of 1 percent, or about 4,000 jobs. But half of the 1.2 million jobs lost nationally this year vanished in the past three months, and the state has lost jobs every month since August.

The latest figures show that the state lost 2,300 jobs in September, but the unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent that month from 6.5 percent in August. Employment in Connecticut totaled 1.7 million in September.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Friday that 240,000 jobs were lost nationally in October, which pushed the country's unemployment rate to 6.5 percent from 6.1 percent in September.

"This was a sobering jobs report," Klepper-Smith said. "It reflects significant deterioration in the U.S. labor markets, and it's confirmation that we've been in recession now for the last three quarters.

"Jobs are down, stocks are down, median housing prices are down," he said. "You marry that with the lowest consumer confidence level in 41 years. Consumers are feeling less wealthy, and they're not in the mood to spend."

Tirinzonie said it's inevitable that the state's economy will soon be going the same way as the nation's.

"We're going to see job losses at least through the second and third quarters of 2009," he said.

Signs of trouble are already showing in the Constitution State.

The Hartford Financial Services Group is laying off 125 workers in the Hartford area and 500 overall. MeadWestvaco is laying off 75 workers at its Enfield factory by the end of the year, and Connecticut Public Broadcasting is giving pink slips to 10 of its 87 employees. Up to 150 workers at Greenwood Publishing Group Inc. in Westport face potential layoffs.

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